Cady Lancaster

Wood Scientist

Ashland, Oregon

I study the chemical properties of wood in order to identify wood that has been illegally chopped down.

Illegal logging is the third largest international crime. Trees are cut down and used for all sorts of purposes. As a wood chemist, I know that each tree species has a unique “fingerprint” of chemicals. My job is to travel the world to build a database of each tree species’ fingerprint. We can use the data to identify trees that have been illegally logged. This is important. If we can’t identify the wood that is being traded or cut down, then we cannot enforce the laws that protect the trees.

I work forensic cases for law enforcement, assisting inspectors and agents to identify the species of wood in anything from floorboards to expensive jewelry. I carefully disassemble wooden objects to collect slivers from hidden locations. Then I take the slivers to a special machine to “burn” the sample. This releases the chemicals in the wood, which I then compare to the database.

This database can be used globally to catch criminals that have been poaching trees from some of the world’s most protected and beautiful habitats. These habitats are precious, not only to the trees but also the wildlife that are sustained by them. You can’t have orangutans swinging from tree to tree if you cut down all of the trees. Every case I work is another step closer to protecting our environment.

Darren J. H. Sleep

Wildlife Biologist 

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I study wildlife and their habitats to understand what they need to thrive.

My dad gave me some advice when I was young. He said, “Find a career you love so much you’d do it for free. You’ll never have to work a day in your life.” That’s pretty good advice, and I’m glad I followed it. I’ve always loved animals and being outdoors. Working as a wildlife biologist allows me to be around both and make a difference in the world.

I’m very passionate about the role forests play in our world. My job is to educate people about the natural world and how we interact with it. I also help forestry companies manage their land in such a way that they continue to make products that are healthy for people and our planet. At the same time, they conserve the things we value like wildlife and water and carbon (to reduce the effects of climate change).

I contribute to the thinking around new ideas to improve how we use our natural resources. I spend a lot of time in an office, but my favorite times are spent outdoors studying birds, bats, owls, mice, and other crittersespecially at night. I’ve been attacked in one way or another by more owls than most people have ever heard of! Here, I’m working with a caribou.

Ashley Coble tests water in a stream.

Ashley Coble


Corvallis, Oregon

I study how forestry activities affect water quantity and quality. I help protect our freshwater ecosystems, the organisms that live in them, and drinking water supplies.

You might find me wading in a stream and sampling water; using mapping software; or delivering presentations to share research data with other scientists. Part of my job is to understand how water travels through the forest, soaks into the soil, or enters a stream. I also measure the chemistry of a stream to determine ­what is in it. And, I examine living things in streams.

My career has taken me to many places across the worldfrom the Great Lakes to the Bering Sea. The research I do helps protect the water quantity and quality of streams, rivers, wetlands, and lakes. I help safeguard wildlife and our drinking water.

With climate change, understanding how forest management affects our freshwater resources is vital. To do that, I have to think creatively about designing studies to address a wide range of critical water-related research questions.