SEFS to Host Wood Identification Workshop

Next week, the Center for International Trade in Forest Products at SEFS—in partnership with the World Resources Institute’s Forest Legality Initiative, World Wildlife Fund and the U.S. Forest Service International Programs—will be hosting a two-day workshop, “Development and Scaling of Innovative Technologies for Wood Identification.” Held in the Forest Club Room on February 28 and March 1, the workshop will feature short thematic presentations, as well as breakout groups centered on the different technologies, in order to dive deeper into the methodologies and challenges of the taxonomic and provenance (origin) identification of wood and forest products.

The remains of illegally harvested trees in Ghana.

Workshop Context
In many parts of the world, illegal logging continues to drive deforestation and poses a significant threat to biodiversity, the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities and the rule of law. As part of an international effort to combat illegal logging, the U.S. Lacey Act was amended in 2008 to require that an importer must declare the species and origin of the forest product they are importing. Since then, government and academic labs have been working to develop methods to identify the species and origin of timber and wood-based products. However, the ability to scale these methods and make them available to enforcement officials and the private sector has yet to materialize.

One of the problems for enforcement agents tasked with Lacey compliance is an inability to quickly and accurately verify the information in customs declarations. For all but the most experienced wood scientists, timber and forest products are nearly impossible to identify to species. Additionally, there is little to aid an agent in verifying a timber or wood product’s origin.

This workshop will convene academic, government and enforcement sector entities to help map out the biggest challenges, and set up partnerships and collaborations to resolve these challenges in the United States. Participants from SEFS include Professors Ivan Eastin and Indroneil Ganguly, Research Associates Daisuke Sasatani and Francesca Pierobon, and alumnus John Simeone. Other core participants will include scientists who have built methods in wood identification using mass spectrometry, stable isotope, wood anatomy, genetics and near-infrared spectroscopy; scientists who employ these methods on non-wood based materials; and state and national enforcement agents who will provide insights on their needs.

For more information about the workshop, contact John Simeone or Meaghan Parker-Forney.

Photo © Jane Atkins.

SEFS Grads Begin Alaskan Adventure

A few weeks ago, we heard from two of our recent graduate students, John Simeone and Erika Knight, who each earned a master’s from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) this past year. They actually met and started dating while undergraduates at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.—they’re now engaged—and this past September they loaded their Volkswagen, hitched up a small U-Haul trailer and set out on the 2,400-mile drive to try life in Anchorage, Alaska!

Knight and Simeone

Knight and Simeone on a hike up to Flattop Mountain, about a 20-minute drive from their apartment in Anchorage.

Simeone grew up outside of New York City, and Knight is originally from New Hampshire, so Alaska would open a totally new frontier for them. And since they weren’t in a hurry, they decided to soak up the scenery on the way, including making a couple memorable stops at the Liard Hotsprings in northern British Columbia, and then the Kluane Lake area in the Yukon. They ended up taking almost six days to complete the journey before pulling into their driveway in Anchorage on October 3 (some make the drive in three days, says Simeone, but what’s the fun in that?!).

Since then, they’ve been reveling in the outdoor offerings in and around Anchorage, finding great hiking and ski trails within minutes of their apartment. “The autumn seems to have sped by quickly,” he says, “and by early November the snow started flying, which we were very glad of since we were excited to get out on the extensive cross-country ski trail networks in town—not to mention getting out into the mountains to backcountry ski!”

Erika Knight

As snow and ski lovers, Knight and Simeone have moved to the right place!

The only downside is that as the snow gets heavier, the days keep getting shorter. “The darkness is certainly hard,” says Simeone, “but the abundance of snow makes up for it! For instance, as I write this email at 10 a.m., it is basically pre-dawn light right now. But the days are already starting to get longer!”

Gobbling up some of those precious daytime hours, of course, are their jobs. Knight has been working for a consulting firm as a full-time environmental scientist, and Simeone has been piecing together some part-time contract consulting work from places as far reaching as Washington, D.C, and Russia. As he continues looking for a full-time position, he has a new contract starting that will involve working on Russia-Alaska king crab trade issues for the World Wildlife Fund’s arctic office.

The real fun, though, has been exploring their new city and state, and they’re just getting started. If you’d like to get a peek at their Alaskan adventure so far, Simeone and Knight shared some of the photos they took during their spectacular drive and first autumn in Anchorage. We put a selection of them in a gallery below, so check it out!

Best of luck to both of you, and stay in touch!

All photos © John Simeone and Erika Knight.