Look out tropical tree thieves! Beware, Pacific pine pilferers! Kristen Finch is on the case!
Sunday April 26, Kristen joined the hosts of Inspiration Dissemination to discuss her study of wood chemistry in Douglas Fir. Kristen’s love of leafy things began in 7th grade when she realized that polyploid strawberries with more than two sets of chromosomes are really big and juicy. This amazed her, because whereas the strawberries benefit from this genetic disposition, a human being would probably die from it!
Kristen’s admiration of the plant kingdom led her to study Ponderosa Pines with her undergraduate mentor and OSU alum, Dr. Ann Willyard. After completing her degree in biology at Hendrix College in Arkansas, Kristen took some time to find out what kind of research she wanted to do in botany by interning at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden. Extracting DNA from Caribbean Mahogany, a process that can take up to ten days, gave her a sense of appreciation for other potential methods of analysis.
Kristen’s research uses the specific chemical content of wood to attempt to identify the origin of lumber. If this turns out to be possible, it would accomplish two things. First,it would provide botanists (like her advisor, Andy Jones) fascinating new knowledge about a tree’s wood chemistry: Is it a result of local environmental factors, or genetic? Secondly, it would provide forestry services (like her co-advisor, Rich Cronn) with a better way to test the harvesting location of lumber that is put on the market. While timber theft is certainly a major issue in South America where deforestation continues to be a serious ecological concern, it is also a frequent offense here in the United States.
To learn more about Kristen’s journey into the world of forestry forensics you’ll have to be patient, audio files for our new episodes are not currently available online but they should be coming soon!
In the meantime, check out some of Kristen’s undergraduate research here!