Do you want to know how wood chemistry works and how this wood identification method can contribute to the reduction of illegal logging? The international journal Mongabay, a non-profit provider of conservation and environmental science news, published an interesting interview with Kristen Finch, then working as a lab technician at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory is using the Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART-TOFMS) machine to determine the full chemical profiles of wood samples. Kristen says that DART-TOFMS can determine the full chemical profile of a piece of wood, rather than identifying a timber species through the genetics or structure of a sample.
“To combat illegal logging, I think that wood identification for timber screening is going to require more than one tool to incriminate an irresponsible party in the supply chain. In the future, wood identification may rely on a combination of evidence–genetic and chemical or genetic and anatomical etc.–to provide strong support for law enforcement”, says Kristen. However, in addition to the sample size needed for the analysis, each technique has its advantages and limitations. Consequently, one of GTTN’s goals is to facilitate the integration of these different methods. The most pressing need is to extend the collection of reference data, which form the basis for the verification of species and origin of a traded wood-based product.
Although the interview was published two years ago, we still recommend reading it because it provides a comprehensive overview of DART-TOFMS and the detective work U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory does. Kristen concludes with the following: “High consumer demand for high-quality timber products leading to continued harvest and trade of timber in impoverished countries.” So we still have a lot to do.
Read the entire interview here.