Supply Chain Sleuths: Partnership Helps Preserve Integrity of Certified Forest Products

Recent action by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) to suspend a major charcoal producer in Europe is one outcome of the FSC and Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) partnership. This collaboration aims at using forensic wood science to investigate supply chainsAlex C. Wiedenhoeft, Research Botanist and Team Leader in FPL’s Center for Wood Anatomy Research (CWAR), has led the CWAR side of a multi-year, award-winning research cooperation between FSC and FPL. Wiedenhoeft and his team conducted the forensic analysis of the contested charcoal.

Specimens of lump charcoal displayed on a specimen submission form.

At issue was whether charcoal appearing on the retail market with the FSC label was in fact sourced from FSC-certified forests.  “Working with investigators within the FSC supply chain integrity team, our forensic results about the botanical origin of the charcoal showed that the species composition of the charcoal was or was not consistent with the species claim,” said Wiedenhoeft.  “As with most forensic applications of botany, the bulk of the work is done by the real-world investigators, whether law enforcement or industrial auditors. Forensic wood science steps in at the evidence analysis phase to give the investigators solid data to inform their investigation.”

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Forensic Botany Hits the Airwaves: FPL Scientist Gets Radio Play

Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) research botanist Alex Wiedenhoeft took the spotlight on a recent segment of Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Larry Meiller Show.

Wiedenhoeft, team leader in FPL’s Center for Wood Anatomy Research, shed some light on forensic botany and how wood can help crack a case. Continue reading

An Old Tale is New Again: Lindbergh Kidnapping Case Still Fascinates

Of all the stories we tell about happenings at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), the story of the famed 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping and our scientist’s involvement in solving the case just never gets old.

The so-called "Lindy Baby Ladder," which Forest Products Laboratory Botanist Arthur Koehler used to convict Bruno Hauptmann.

The so-called “Lindy Baby Ladder,” which Forest Products Laboratory Botanist Arthur Koehler studied and was used to help convict Bruno Hauptmann in the infamous kidnapping.

Adam Schrager, a journalist at WISC-TV in Madison and the author of The Sixteenth Rail: The Evidence, the Scientist, and the Lindbergh Kidnapping, recently penned another fascinating article on the case for the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s alumni magazine, On Wisconsin.

Forensic work is still alive and well at FPL in our Center for Wood Anatomy research, and you can learn more about our modern-day wood sleuths in these recent LabNotes offerings.

Looking for Better Wood DNA Extraction Techniques

Researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) recently began a study focused on developing innovative techniques to extract quality DNA samples from wood and wood products.

According to an FPL Research In Progress report titled Anatomically Informed Optimization of Wood and Wood Products for Forensic Analysis, compared to other plant parts, wood is often a poor source of DNA, even if it is extracted from a living tree.  The processing of trees and wood can further diminish the quality and usability of that DNA.

A hickory specimen showing the heartwood–sapwood transi - tion and inner and outer bark. DNA content is highest in the  inner bark and lowest in the outer bark and heartwood. Inset: a  fluorescence micrograph of freezer-milled Alaska yellow-cedar  showing intact nuclei (blue-white dots). With organellar mi - crocapture, we will be able to selectively extract the nuclei for  analysis.

A hickory specimen showing the heartwood–sapwood transition and inner and outer bark. DNA content is highest in the inner bark and lowest in the outer bark and heartwood. Inset: a fluorescence micrograph of freezer-milled Alaska yellow-cedar showing intact nuclei (blue-white dots). With organellar microcapture, we will be able to selectively extract the nuclei for
analysis.

Scientists hope exploring and developing improved DNA extraction practices will open the door to valuable, cost effective, and revolutionary research, especially in the field of forensic botany and timber forensics.

FPL researchers plan to examine various tree species in order to develop preprocessing methods for wood DNA extraction. Furthermore, botanists plan to explore the use of DNA databases and predict extraction protocols for new woods based on wood structure.

The project will conclude in 2018.

To learn more about this study, read the full Research In Progress report.

Blog post by Francesca Yracheta

Forensic Fact-Checking of Certified Wood Products

When consumers buy a certified product, they expect it to be exactly what it claims to be. In order to maintain their consumers’ trust, suppliers of these goods often bring in an independent third party to verify that what is being sold is exactly what was promised.

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Forensic wood science is being employed to verify supply chain integrity. (Photo on right courtesy of Gary Dodge.)

Researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory’s (FPL) Center for Wood Anatomy Research are serving as such a third party in partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). More than 456 million forested acres in 80 countries are certified to FSC standards, and more than 40,000 forest products companies participate in their certification system.

FPL researchers are developing and applying forensic wood scientific approaches to verify industry claims and enhance supply chain integrity of FSC-certified wood products, among several other objectives.

Forensic wood science techniques will be employed in the laboratory for every product that is tested. Some products are submitted for testing by FSC, and some are purchased directly by FPL in the open market for evaluation.

For more on the background, objectives, and expected outcomes of this project, please read this Research In Progress report.