More From Forest Products Laboratory’s Legacy of Women Researchers

This is the second in a series of inspirational stories about the incredible women scientists at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL).

Eloise Gerry, first FPL & Forest Service woman scientist.

Every month of the year, and especially during Women’s History Month, FPL celebrates the legacy and precedent set by FPL’s and the Forest Service’s first woman scientist, Eloise Gerry. In this edition, we would like to continue to showcase the incredible women scientists who have followed in her extraordinary, trailblazing footsteps.

Like nearly all remarkable stories, they are often most powerful when told straight from the women themselves. Take a moment to meet the women who are positively changing the world through forest products research and making it a better place to inhabit:

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Forest Products Laboratory: A Legacy of Women Researchers

When the doors of the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) opened in 1910, Eloise Gerry shouldered her way through as the first female scientist employed by the Forest Service. Her tenacity, moxie, and remarkable talent produced a storied 44-year career with over 120 publications.

Eloise Gerry, first FPL & Forest Service woman scientist.

Every month of the year, and especially during Women’s History month, FPL celebrates the legacy and precedent Gerry set. This month we would like to showcase some of the incredible women scientists that have followed in her extraordinary footsteps.

Like nearly all remarkable stories, they are often most powerful when told straight from the woman herself.

Take a moment to meet the women who are positively changing the world through forest products research and making it a better place to inhabit:

Continue reading

Women in Ag Award Presented to FPL Researcher

Roderquita Moore, a research chemist at the Forest Products Laboratory, received the Inspiring Woman in STEM award as part of the 2018 USDA Women in Ag award program. The winners represent a range of career paths from various agencies across USDA and they are located all around the world.

FPL research chemist
Roderquita Moore

Read more about Moore’s career journey and highlights written in her own words below. Congratulations, Roderquita!

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Women’s History Month: FPL Remembers the Statisticians

Statistics is commonly viewed as the collection, collation, and presentation of numerical data. FPL has long recognized that the field of statistics is critical for testing research hypotheses and making inferences to untested populations. Statistics has provided extensive and powerful tools for designing studies, analyzing data, summarizing or modeling data, and interpreting results for many research studies at FPL.Final Statistics labs

Statistics has allowed for more accurate and precise estimations in completing meaningful research experiments. This has resulted in more efficient and cost-effective research programs and more reliable results. John W. Koning, Jr.’s comprehensive book, Forest Products Laboratory, 1910–2010: Celebrating a Century of Accomplishments provides history tidbits of how this field evolved over the years.

In 1958, the section was named “Statistics and Computing.” Prior to that, statistical design was handled in the research projects. The staff of the new section consisted of nine women, to which one man transferred in 1959. As equipment became more powerful, more of this important work could be accomplished. And the punch cards went away.New More recentDo you find it surprising that so many of these statisticians are women? FPL thanks the teams of workers who have done this precise work for a century: all for the sake of scientific accuracy.

Women’s History Month: FPL Remembers Marguerite Sykes

Is paper one of the first things that comes to mind when you think about forest products? FPL has been at the forefront of developing innovative and environmentally friendly methods for producing this ubiquitous product. Chemist Marguerite Sykes, who worked in FPL’s pilot plant from 1971 until her retirement in 2002, was a key player in paper pulping research and development.

Sykes-pulping

Marguerite Sykes makes handsheets of paper for evaluation in the paper test laboratory by using experimental pulps. (1980s)

The challenge for FPL scientists has been to economically and sustainably increase the yield of pulp from wood. FPL developed a pulping process that significantly increased pulp yield and allowed use of many underutilized hardwoods. Research at FPL also improved the sulfate (kraft) pulping process so that many softwoods could be used in paper making. These practices have extended timber supply and enhanced forest management.

During her tenure at FPL, Sykes worked on many interdisciplinary teams and co-authored nearly 60 papers. In an interview with the University of Wisconsin U.S. Forest Products Lab Centennial Oral History Project, Sykes speaks with passion for that work: “I think everything I worked on the last fifteen years [was] extraordinarily exciting and I think they were kind of breakthrough topics [such as how] to replace the chemicals for pulping and bleaching and recycling with more environmentally sound methods like enzymes or hydrogen peroxide for bleaching. And so everything was new, and although some people had been doing it, none of these techniques were being used commercially. So it was just kind of ground work on some of these things that made it very exciting.”

Sykes speaks more about how this work came to be. From the mid-1980s through the 1990s, “recycling became big just because landfills were being filled so rapidly,” and people threw out an enormous amount of paper. In addition to recycling work, Sykes felt that existing recycling processes used an excess of chemicals that were “very harmful to the [effluent] waters that came out of the mill.” These chemicals, she says, were defeating any environmental benefits. For this reason, Sykes and others “started using enzymes for de-inking, and that too is an innovative idea.”

Sykes also talks about making handsheets, where in the test lab, “you slurry the pulp and there is a special instrument of sheet mold that you make a hand sheet and all the tests are brightness, how white it is, how strong it is, how easy it tears go back to the basic hand sheet.”

Paper. It’s all around us. FPL thanks this innovative and enthusiastic scientist for her work in improving paper production.