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Wood Identification & Screening Center

Group of three women inside wood screening laboratory stand by screening equipment.
Dr. Cady Lancaster of WISC demonstrates DART TOFMS technology for Peruvian visitors.

Illegal logging costs the United States forest products industry around $500 million annually due to lost export opportunities and depressed wood prices. The US Lacey Act makes it unlawful to import, export, sell, or acquire fish, wildlife, or plants- including wood products- that are acquired, transported, or sold in violation of federal, state, or foreign laws. The Lacey Act requires importers and exporters to declare the species and origin of the traded timber. Methods to evade this provision include mis-declaring the species and/or origin of the wood product. Using wood identification technologies can confirm the validity of declarations. 

As part of its global program to combat illegal logging and associated trade, IP’s Wood Identification & Screening Center (WISC) supports Lacey Act enforcement by providing wood identification services to the US government, conducting trainings in wood identification, and furthering wood identification technologies to be as efficient as possible to meet law enforcement needs. WISC began in 2017 as a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Lab (NFWFL) in Ashland, Oregon. In May 2020 WISC expanded and moved to Corvallis, Oregon through a partnership with Oregon State University’s College of Forestry.

Woman in white lab coat operates Direct Analysis in Real Time Time-of Flight Mass Spectrometry machine.
In DART-TOFMS a sliver of wood is introduced to the instrument to reveal its chemical fingerprint.

WISC primarily uses Direct Analysis in Real Time Time-of Flight Mass Spectrometry (DART-TOFMS) with a chemical fingerprinting method that was pioneered for wood at NFWFL to confirm species claims of wood products. DART-TOFMS is an ambient ionization method that provides rapid, real-time results using a high resolution TOFMS.  Each species of tree produces diagnostic chemical spectra “fingerprints” of small molecules that are used to classify unknown specimens through comparison against a world-wide spectral database, the Forensic Spectra of Trees Database (ForeST©). The technique requires only a sliver of wood be placed between the DART ion source and the TOFMS inlet for a few seconds. The heated ion source ablates and ionizes molecules from the wood surface that are then drawn into the mass spectrometer. Advantages of DART-TOFMS is that it is used in open air, requires only a sliver of wood with no preparation, and gives real-time results.

WISC is one of the US government’s service providers for wood identification in suspected Lacey Act violations. WISC also continues to expand reference databases and technologies for wood identification, and serves as an educational hub for wood identification technologies for domestic and international partners. By providing these services, WISC is helping make wood identification technologies more accurate, efficient, and available as part of the global effort to combat illegal logging.