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The World Needs New Tools to Fight Illegal Logging. You Can Help.

The world needs new tools to fight the scourge of illegal logging. We've got a plan. And you can be part of it....

Illegal logging destroys forests, disrupts ecological processes, increases CO2 in the atmosphere, and provides revenue for other illicit activities. Port officials, law enforcement officers, corporations, and everyday consumers need new tools to fight this scourge.

We’ve got a plan. And you can be part of it.

Illegal logging isn’t a matter of a chopping down a single tree here and there–it’s big business, clearing vast tracts of land and representing 50-90% of logging in some tropical countries. Photo courtesy World Resources Institute

Timber in a Nutshell

In partnership with the World Resources Institute, Adventure Scientists volunteers are headed into the field to gather tree tissue samples which geneticists from DNA4 Technologies and New Mexico State University will use to develop genetic reference libraries for different species.

These databases will enable scientists to confirm the species and origin of traded wood products and aid customs officers in the forensic validation of a suspicious shipment. This will help officers enforce illegal logging legislation, empower responsible buyers, and thwart dishonest harvesters in the illegal timber trade.

The first phase of this project will focus on the bigleaf maple, a towering hardwood that grows along the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada. Because about one in 20 bigleaf maples possesses an incredibly beautiful wood pattern, these trees are targeted by timber thieves for their high value in the guitar and furniture trade.

Bigleaf maple trees in the Pacific northwest support countless tiny organisms that live in the micro-forests of moss and lichens that grow on their trunks and branches. Photo by Doug Dolde (CC-BY-2.0)

This spring and summer, we’re calling hikers, backpackers, and sea kayakers to action. After training, volunteers will collect bigleaf maple samples such as leaves, seeds, or tree cores from select sites in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

After establishing the reference library for bigleaf maple, we will then expand to other species around the world.

We’ve Got an Idea for You

How’s this sound for your summer hiking plan?

Collect leaves like you’re a 19th-century explorer. Send them to a genetics lab like you’re a futuristic crime solver. Look in the mirror and realize you’re a 21st-century conservation hero.

We need adventurers like you to power this project to battle illegal timber.

Some Adventure Scientists volunteers will be tasked with collecting multiple samples and preserving them in a press, like naturalist-explorers of yore. Photo by John B. Hanle

So dust off your pack, lace up your boots, and see if you have what it takes to be a part of the next great Adventure Scientists project.

Apply to join our Timber Project today!

Prefer fauna to flora? Check out our Pollinators Project.

More of a roadbike person? Our Wildlife Connectivity Project is calling.

Learn more about Adventure Scientists and the work we do around the world.

About National Geographic Society

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Meet the Author

Author Photo Gregg Treinish
Gregg Treinish founded Adventure Scientists in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration. National Geographic named Gregg Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. He was included on the Christian Science Monitor's 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work with Adventure Scientists. In 2013, he was named a Backpacker Magazine "hero", in 2015, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and one of Men's Journal's "50 Most Adventurous Men." In 2017, he was named an Ashoka Fellow and in 2018 one of the Grist 50 "Fixers." Gregg holds a biology degree from Montana State University and a sociology degree from CU-Boulder. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. Read more updates from Gregg and others on the Adventure Scientists team at Follow Adventure Scientists on Instagram @adventurescientists, on Facebook @adventurescientists, and on Twitter @AdvScientists.