Forestry Forensics 101

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!

“A set of plastid loci for use in multiplex fragment length genotyping for intraspecific variation in Pinus (Pinaceae)”


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About Matt McConnell

Matt McConnell is from Midland, Michigan and received his undergraduate BS in Psychology and Philosophy at Central Michigan University. After graduating he spent several years in North Carolina. Most of this was at UNC working as a medical research lab assistant using mice as model organisms, but some of his work also involved cognitive research with Rhesus Macaques at a Duke University field site in Puerto Rico. Matt currently live in Corvallis, OR where he attends OSU as a graduate student in the History of Science master's program. He is taking Science Education as a related minor, with an emphasis in Free Choice Learning. His interests in History of Science and Science Education meet on the practice of Science Communication. Matt is currently co-host of the weekly radio show 'Inspiration Dissemination', in which graduate students discuss their personal journeys. Inspiration Dissemination is open to all graduate students and airs every Sunday evening at 7pm on 88.7 FM, KBVR Corvallis.