In late June of 2010 Bonnie Woodward went missing. An acquaintance, Roger Carroll, was an early suspect for her assumed murder but police found no evidence of any crime, and never found her body. For nearly eight years she remained missing and the case went cold. It was only after Roger Carroll admitted to his wife that he had killed Woodward that critical new information came to light.
A witness claimed Carroll shot Woodward at his rural Jersey County, Illinois, home, burned her remains in a huge brush pile that he stoked for several days, then used a tractor to push all the evidence – or so he thought – into a creek. Carroll was taken into custody in April of 2018 and charged with first-degree murder.
Researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) have partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to investigate whether wood from products sold in the United States is accurately labeled. The forensic expertise of FPL botanist Alex Wiedenhoeft was key in this research, and the findings of the study were recently published in a journal article in PLOS One.
For an easily-accessible explanation of the research, check out this story from WWF. It’s full of great photos that give you a behind-the-scenes look into Alex’s forensic work and the world’s largest research wood collection, housed here at FPL in the Center for Wood Anatomy Research.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation organization, featured a partnership with the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in their 2018 Annual Report.
Since 2016, FPL’s Center for Wood Anatomy Research, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Institute, and Simeone Consulting, LLC, has been working to establish data on product misrepresentation in the American consumer market for forest products. In addition to asking questions about the presence and prevalence of product misrepresentation, the partnership also sought to document the availability, willingness, and capability of forensic wood expertise in the United States. The full results of the study are under review by a peer-reviewed journal, and it is hoped that this pioneering work will be published soon. In addition, WWF and FPL are looking to the future for further collaborative projects.
A link to the full WWF Annual Report can be found here. The project with FPL is featured second on the web page.
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 chains. Alex 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.”