Wood ID Lab Moves To Oregon State

Thanks to a five-year, $4 million federal grant from the Forest Service International Programs Office, the Wood Identification and Screening Center (WISC) is moving to Oregon State University, where it will join the College of Forestry. The WISC was established three years ago to combat the illegal timber trade by using wood samples and their unique chemical signatures to identify the origin and species of wood in lumber, furniture and even musical instruments. According to WISC Director Beth Lebow, illegal logging is the third most profitable transnational crime and costs the U.S. timber industry up to $1 billion annually. According to the World Economic Forum, half of all tropical deforestation is illegal.

Companies in the U.S. are banned under the federal Lacey Act from buying or selling illegally sourced timber products, and the WISC can help companies comply with the act and validate their supply chains in the future. When a wood product is imported, the importer has to submit a Lacey Act declaration that states the genus and species, as well as the origin of the wood. The WISC also works with other government agencies including Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection System.

The WISC lab uses specialized mass spectrometry to analyze the chemical signatures in toothpick-sized wood samples no larger than a toothpick. Cross-referencing the signature with others in its database, WISC can determine a product’s genus and species within seconds. To date, WISC has collected 16,000 chemical signatures from 1,100 wood species.

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