Forensic Wildlife Investigators Hit the Road with Mobile Lab
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service unveil one-of-a-kind mobile timber analysis laboratory
The foster+freeman VSC 8000 Video Spectral Comparator is set to play a key role in the fight against wildlife crime having recently been installed in a unique new mobile laboratory nicknamed “The Woodshed”.
Owned and operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFAWS), the Woodshed will be used to identify illegally traded timber and to authenticate and protect the legal timber trade at ports of entry across Northwest USA.
One of several advanced forensic technologies employed by the laboratory, the foster+freeman VSC 8000 is an invaluable tool used by the lab for genus identification.
Using high magnification multi-spectral imaging, USFAWS examiners are able to reveal growth rings and morphological features in wood that, prior to using a VSC instrument, had required the preparation of a ‘thin section sample’ – a time consuming and incredibly painstaking process.
Devastating illegal trade
Worth an estimated $51–$152 billion annually, the illegal timber industry is considered the world’s most valuable form of wildlife trade. In addition to this, the destruction of biodiversity and significant greenhouse gas emissions caused by illegal logging has devastating economic and social impacts in forest countries.
Many countries including the United States, EU, Australia, and South Korea, now have strict laws in place to prohibit the trade in illegal wood imports and now require companies to document the origin of their products.
Forensic technology for varied and unusual applications
Opened in 1988, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensic Laboratory is widely recognised as being the world’s leading laboratory dedicated to the investigation of crimes against wildlife.
Today, the busy laboratory which handles up to 500 cases per year, utilises the very latest forensic technology to examine items of evidence as varied and unusual as exotic bird feathers, animal furs and hides, wood from endangered trees, and even entire animal carcasses.
With such a wide range of evidence types arriving at the laboratory each day, deputy lab director Dr. Ed Espinoza has had to be incredibly resourceful; expanding the capabilities of traditional forensic instruments, such as the VSC 8000, far beyond the applications they were originally designed for.
Find out more
If you’re interested in the topic of Wildlife Forensics and the fascinating work of those fighting to prevent wildlife crime, why not take a few moments to watch our recent webinar on the subject:
Wildlife forensics is a relatively new field of criminal investigation that in many countries lags far behind other fields of forensic science in terms of budget and the availability of manpower, equipment and resources. In this webinar, we focus on getting the most out of a limited range of equipment and also in using common forensic tools and instruments, occasionally in unexpected ways, to examine wildlife crimes.