Naturalis has a long-standing history in wood anatomical research and houses one the largest scientific wood collections in the world (ca. 125.000 samples). Using light and electron microscopy, wood anatomists describe the extraordinary variation in cell types and arrangements, and interpret this variation in a phylogenetic and ecological framework. In our group, we are currently focusing on the families Apocynaceae, Ebenaceae and Sapotaceae.
In collaboration with prof. Fons Verbeek (LIACS, Leiden University) and dr. Barbara Gravendeel (Naturalis), we are setting up a reference collection of high-resolution images from wood anatomical sections across ebony woods (Diospyros, Ebenaceae) along with a chemical fingerprinting database to develop a timber identification tool based on machine learning (Plant.ID ITN). Ebony woods are being frequently traded in such extent that CITES decided to put all Malagasy species under protection, and thereby preventing overexploitation and extinction of the ebony trees on the island. With our research, we aim to build a valuable tool for customs officers and other stakeholders involved in combatting illegal logging around the world.