Event Summary: Development and Scaling of Innovative Technologies for Wood Identification

Author(s)

Meaghan ParkerChip Barber

The Seattle Dialogue was convened to help harness wood identification (“wood ID”) technologies as part of efforts to combat illegal logging and associated trade.  The meeting brought together some 60 participants, including many of the most renowned wood ID scientists in the United States (and several from overseas), with representatives of federal and state government agencies, key international institutions, NGOs, and illegal logging policy experts. The Dialogue’s objectives were to: share perspectives and information on the current state of wood ID technologies and their practical applications; identify major challenges; map out potential roads to resolving those challenges; and catalyze new partnerships for the road ahead.

The Dialogue focused on four wood ID methods: wood anatomy; DNA-based methods; stable isotope analysis; and spectrographic chemical analysis. While additional technologies are being tested, scientists utilizing these four technologies have published evidence of concrete success with identification of wood specimens with respect to either species, origin, or both.

In addition to the plenary discussions detailed in this Summary, participants were also able to spend one morning split up into four groups in University of Washington laboratories specializing in the four wood identification methods that were the focus of the meeting.  These hands-on sessions provided participants who were not wood ID scientists with a valuable opportunity to more deeply understand how the various technologies worked, and the challenges they face. For the scientists, these lab sessions provided an opportunity to hear the kinds of questions and perceptions on wood ID arising from the policy and enforcement communities.

The participants’ main task was to evaluate the state of various wood ID technologies, explore potential synergies among them, and “ground truth” the technologies’ promise against the realities of forensic investigation and law enforcement. U.S. federal and state enforcement agents were asked to provide insights on field applicability of current methods and government and NGO affiliates were asked to provide contextual information on trends in international forest products trade, national and international policy developments, legislation and relevant research initiatives.

The Seattle Dialogue was convened to explore the ways in which emerging technologies for wood identification can more effectively contribute to combating illegal logging and associated trade, which is widely recognized as a key forest management and natural resources crime issue. 

An executive summary of the plenary sessions and key points, along with all of the presentations, can be found here