About the Center

The Center for Environmental Forensic Science (CEFS) aims to advance forensic methods and opportunities to disrupt and dismantle transnational environmental crimes through collaboration across multiple disciplines and domains.

Transnational crimes have grown rapidly by capitalizing on a burgeoning world trade. Nearly one billion containers shipped worldwide on marine vessels provides enormous opportunities for criminal organizations to conceal large volumes of transnational environmental contraband shipments. This is producing unprecedented negative impacts on biodiversity, health, economies, and national security.  Advanced forensic methods and opportunities are needed to address this problem.


Fig.1. The Port of Singapore (right) transships 1/3 of the world’s containers. In 2019, PI Wasser and HSI sampled a comingled seizure of ivory (9 tons, top left) and pangolin scales (12 tons, middle left) seized at that port, exported from Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). DRC traffickers shipped ivory painted black (lower left) to Seattle with the intention of comingling a larger ivory shipment with Ebony, African blackwood. The traffickers were arrested in Seattle by HSI in December 2021.


Based at the University of Washington, CEFS is a collaboration of diverse scientists, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies, non-government organizations and the private sector, devising strategies, tools, and opportunities to discover and disrupt operations of transnational criminal organizations. We collaboratively determine what we need to know to strengthen investigations and prosecutions, develop and validate the combination of tools needed to achieve those ends, and capitalize on our collective skills, experiences, and connections to maximize their application where most needed.

CEFS evolved from and replaces the Center for Conservation Biology.