A ‘XyloPhone’ for Combatting Illegal Logging; Giving Dairy Cows a Voice Through Science

For Wednesday,  May 24, 2023

Hi WN@TL Fans,

We have seen in recent talks how wood can be calendar and clock and ID card for archeologists and anthropologists studying humans & their cultures.   Dendrochronology of growth rings gives us a year-by-year uncovering of the trials and tribulations of a tree, and casts light on the humans who dwell in the tree’s shade.  In the case of dugout canoes, through carbon-14 dating the wood tells us the approximate age of the vessel chopped & burnt from a tree.  Microscopic examination of the wood tells us the species felled to make the boat, or in the case of the Lindbergh kidnapping nearly a century ago, the source of the lumber used to make a ladder.

It is not only the archeologist or the criminologist who look to the woods for insights on provenance and identification.  Today some forests and forest-dwellers around the world are threatened by pilfering, piracy or plundering.  Thus the drive to develop fast & reliable ways for foresters and brokers to identify products from tree to log to lumber is pivotal in enabling regulators and purchasers to have confidence on the true origins of the wood from which we fashion our homes and furnishings.

On May 24 Alex Wiedenhoeft of the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Products Lab and of the Department of Botany will speak on “Wood Nerds vs. Organized Crime:  How Open Source, DIY Forensic Tools Can Help Combat Illegal Logging.”   He’ll be showing us how to magnify & identify exotic woods up close with the hand-held  XyloPhone as he shares the literal insights provided by his invention that lets wood scientists use an iPhone to identify the species of wood at hand.

Description:  Dr. Wiedenhoeft will talk briefly about the global problem of illegal logging, the relative paucity of wood forensic capacity in the US and across the world, and how these factors inspired the development of the XyloTron and XyloPhone platforms for computer vision wood identification. He will talk through the genesis and evolution of the hardware, the rationale for open-source DIY development, how the technologies have been applied to date, possible future applications, and next steps. He will have XyloTron and XyloPhone technology on hand for demonstration and use by attendees.

Bio:  Dr. Alex C. Wiedenhoeft is a Research Botanist and Team Leader in the USDA Forest Products Laboratory’s Center for Wood Anatomy Research, where he has worked for more than 28 years. His research program emphasizes botanical wood anatomy, forensic wood science, and biocentric wood science. He holds academic positions at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Purdue University, São Paulo State University- Botucatu, and Mississippi State University. He is an elected Fellow of the International Academy of Wood Science, a Deputy Executive Secretary of the International Association of Wood Anatomists, and an Associate Editor for Frontiers in Plant Science. His educational activities focus on various aspects of forensic botany, wood science for baseball bat manufacturers, and wood science and technology for the U.S. flooring industry at large. Dr. Wiedenhoeft is one of the pioneers of the XyloTron wood identification platform, the inventor of the XyloPhone, and works actively with law enforcement in the US and abroad to bring wood forensic technologies to bear in support of legal and sustainable use of forest products.

The Xylotron in use to magnify wood in cross-section so as to speed identification of the species of the wood

 His lab facilities are located at the US Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory on the west end of campus where he is a Research Botanist and Team Leader for the Center for Wood Anatomy Research. He and his team curate world’s largest and finest xylarium and conduct research on a range of topics related to wood, trees, and forests, including: the evolution of wood anatomical diversity in Croton; organellar microcapture from wood trace evidence; meso-scale characterization of wood properties and behavior; studies of structure-function relationships in wood products; and phenotypic characterization of high-value wood mutations. His lab is part of an interdisciplinary cooperation funded by the US Department of State and the Forest Service to develop an open source field-portable machine vision wood identification system, the XyloTron. XyloTron projects include developing regional identification models for in-country deployment, improvement of feature detection algorithms to automate the acquisition of wood anatomical data for basic scientific research, and data mining the ever-growing data set to improve XyloTron performance.

Explore More:  https://www.fs.usda.gov/research/treesearch/62840




On May 31 we wrap up May’s five Wednesday run with Jennifer Van Os of Animal & Dairy Science speaking on “Giving Cows a Voice Through Science.”

Description: Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland. How do we make sure our state’s dairy cows experience the best quality of life? We will discuss scientific frameworks and methods for understanding and evaluating the welfare of dairy cattle, including examples of research conducted here at UW-Madison.

Bio:  Jennifer Van Os is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Animal Welfare on the faculty of the Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Van Os received her PhD in the interdisciplinary Animal Behavior graduate program at the University of California-Davis and conducted postdoctoral research in the Animal Welfare Program at the University of British Columbia. The research in her lab at UW-Madison focuses on understanding, evaluating, and improving the welfare of dairy animals from biological- and social-science perspectives. The goal of Dr. Van Os’ extension program is to promote best practices in management and housing to help the dairy industry adapt as our scientific knowledge about animal welfare continues to grow.

Explore More: https://animalwelfare.cals.wisc.edu/