Meet Emily Marvel! In her short video, Emily shares why she volunteers with Adventure Scientists’ Timber Tracking project. The project activates and trains volunteers to collect leaves, twigs, and cores from tree species typically targeted by timber theft, providing data forest managers need to identify illegally harvested timber. Preventing stolen trees from reaching the world’s timber supply will help protect our forests while meeting society’s resource needs.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the forest products industry in the U.S. loses an estimated $500 million to $1 billion yearly through illegal logging. Removing large, mature trees can upset the ecosystem balance, threatening the animals, plants, fungi, and other species that contribute to a thriving forest.

Samples collected by Adventure Scientists’ volunteers give scientists at the U.S. Forest Service the ability to build genetic and chemical reference libraries across a tree species’ range. With those libraries, researchers can test lumber and determine where the tree once grew. Did it come from a forest area that was logged legally? Or was it cut down illegally and fraudulently labeled? Answering that question will ensure the security of timber supply and cut back on timber poaching.

Since 2018, volunteers have collected samples from six tree species: bigleaf maple, coast redwood, western redcedar, Alaska yellow-cedar, eastern black walnut, and eastern white oak. The project will tackle more species in the future, so stay tuned!

Interested in learning more about the project? Check out our Timber Tracking project webpage or read the latest project report. Interested in delving into the science? Read “Decoding the Fingerprints of Trees through their DNA,” an article from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station.