Philippine Partnership : FPL Hosts Southeast Asian Scientist

The Center for Wood Anatomy Research (CWAR) at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) is pleased to host Mr. Mario Ramos, Senior Science Research Specialist from the Anatomy and Forest Botany Section of the Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI), Department of Science and Technology, Philippines.

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The Forest Products Research and Development Institute, Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines. FPRDI is one of just a handful of state-funded forest products labs. Photo credit FPRDI.

Ramos’ official program title is “Training Course on Wood Anatomy, Identification, and Imaging” and includes training and preparatory work toward long-term cooperation with CWAR’s XyloTron wood identification program.

The XyloTron is a machine-vision-based wood identification system that uses a custom-designed wood imaging device (the XyloScope), image analysis, and statistical processing software run from a laptop/netbook. With it, users can identify over 150 species of wood more accurately than trained law enforcement personnel. The technology could help combat the global problem of illegal logging by empowering law enforcement agents to make field identification of wood.

In addition to learning how to construct and maintain a XyloTron, Ramos will begin to prepare and image the CWAR’s extensive holdings of Philippine woods, and when he returns to FPRDI with a XyloTron, he will carry on the work there.

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Mario Ramos at his microscope in the Center for Wood Anatomy Research, Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, WI. Photo credit R. Soares.

“I am very fortunate and privileged to be part of FPL’s Center for Wood Anatomy Research team,” said Ramos. “While brief, my training at FPL’s CWAR will definitely have great impacts particularly on improving the wood anatomy laboratory facilities and the services we offer at FPRDI. I am excited for my involvement with the machine vision project given its impacts on the preservation of threatened and/or endangered wood species in the Philippines.”

“The Philippines is extremely rich in natural resources, especially timber, and is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world,” said FPL’s Alex Wiedenhoeft, Research Botanist and Team Leader for the CWAR.  Anything science can do to extend the forest resources, encourage wise use and good management, and prevent illegal logging is time well-spent.”

Ramos and Wiedenhoeft had corresponded for a number of years, always with the hope of being able to arrange a scientific exchange and initiate a cooperative research program. The cooperation was made possible by a Philippine training grant program and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between FPL and FPRDI.

The MOU establishes a framework for partnership in range of research areas in addition to wood anatomy, including cellulose nanomaterials; wood composites; wood decay and preservation; lignin and products from lignin; fire and fire testing; life cycle assessment; non-destructive testing; and, other areas of mutual interest.

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The Center for Wood Anatomy Research team that Mr. Ramos has joined. From the left, Alex C. Wiedenhoeft, Research Botanist and Team Leader; Adriana Costa, postdoctoral visiting scientist from São Paulo, Brazil; Richard Soares, visiting scientist from São Paulo, Brazil; Mario Ramos, visiting scientist, FPRDI, Philippines; Rafael Arévalo, postdoctoral visiting scientist, Bogotá, Colombia. Photo credit A. Wiedenhoeft.

“FPL is pleased with the success of our initial scientific exchanges, and we hope that this cooperation and our MOU paves the way for additional exchanges and cooperative work,” said FPL’s Michael Ritter, Assistant Director for Wood and Wood Products.

Mr. Ramos’ Anatomy and Forest Botany Section is analogous to the CWAR, and FPRDI, established in 1954 as the Forest Products Laboratory in the Bureau of Forestry, was modeled in part on FPL’s organization and mission. FPRDI, like FPL, is one of just a handful of national forest products labs around the world that still enjoy state funding.

Contributed by Alex Wiedenhoeft

Visiting Scientist Contributes to Fungal Database

Collaboration brings a wealth of resources to research, and international visiting scientists can often be found working along side permanent researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL).

Dr. Xingxia Ma, Chinese Academy of Forestry

Dr. Xingxia Ma, Chinese Academy of Forestry

One such scientist is Professor Xingxia Ma, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Bejing, China, who recently completed a research sabbatical in the Durability and Wood Protection research unit at FPL.

Dr. Ma’s research included developing comparative decay test methodologies and genetic identification of soil-inhabiting fungi present in laboratory fungal cellar beds.

Fungal cellar beds are a standardized method for accelerated testing of wood and wood-based materials in contact with soil.The soil bed is amended with select fungi that cause brown- and white-rot decay of wood. These fungi are intended to accelerate the rate of decay in wood samples that are embedded in soil tubs; however, the majority of decay observed in soil bed tests is usually a third type of decay called soft-rot. Fungi that cause soft-rot thrive in environments with elevated moisture and high nitrogen content.

Fungal cellar isolates were Sanger-sequenced for genetic identification and entered into FPL’s fungal database. Development of a fungal database was identified as a National priority by members of the wood protection industry.