Applications in Wildlife Forensics Reveals Versatility of New VSC8000

US-fish wildlife lab 11-2015

A unique fish and wildlife forensics laboratory in Oregon, USA, is using a VSC8000 document imaging system for the comparison and identification of an unusual range of evidence types.

Opened in 1988, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensic Laboratory is widely recognised as being the world’s leading laboratory dedicated to the investigation of crimes against wildlife.

Today, the busy laboratory which handles up to 500 cases per year, utilises the very latest forensic technology to examine items of evidence as varied and unusual as exotic bird feathers, animal furs and hides, wood from endangered trees, and even entire animal carcasses.

With such a wide range of evidence types arriving at the laboratory each day, deputy lab director Dr. Ed Espinoza has had to be incredibly resourceful; expanding the capabilities of traditional forensic instruments far beyond the applications they were originally designed for.

Examination of Endangered Wood

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Identification of Ivory


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Using the VSC8000 Super Resolution Imaging functionality, the examiner is able to reveal growth rings and morphological features in wood that, prior to using a VSC instrument, had required the preparation of a ‘thin section sample’ – a time consuming and incredibly painstaking process.


‘To determine if a statue is made from elephant ivory’ Dr. Espinoza explains ‘we conduct an analysis of the angles formed by a feature called Schreger lines’.

Here, a figurine is examined under the VSC8000. Using the VSC measurement tools it is possible record the angles of the Schreger lines and confirm that the item is indeed carved from ivory.




Differentiating Plastic Bullet Tips

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Identification of Reptile Skins

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An item of evidence examined all too often by Dr. Espinoza, plastic tipped bullets are widely used by hunters who favour their accuracy over long distances. At the Fish and Wildlife Forensics lab, the bullets produced by different manufacturers are differentiated by their propensity to fluoresce under IR examination.


Examining a jet black purse, suspected of being snakeskin, in the infrared spectrum. Dr. Espinoza was able to ‘see through’ the black dye to reveal the snakeskin pattern and determine the species of snake used to create the bag.

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External Link: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensic Laboratory