UW Research

Center for Environmental Forensic Science



To combat transnational environmental crimes and their associated impacts by employing complementary strategies and tools generated by a collaboration of scientists, government and non-government organizations, and the private sector

The Center for Environmental Forensic Science (CEFS) is a unique interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists, government, and non-government organizations (NGOs) working to improve how environmental crimes are identified, investigated, and prosecuted. Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) are concealing large quantities of contraband, concealed among a burgeoning world trade in legal products. Law enforcement needs better tools to identify illicit shipments, determine where the contraband is being sourced, who is shipping them, and the connectivity between shipments and traffickers.  CEFS aims to assist these efforts through collaborative exchange among law enforcement agencies, scientists, NGOs and the private sector operating inside and outside the United States. Collectively, we will identify, develop and implement new, complementary methods and approaches that reveal the identities, breadth, strategies, and connectivity of major TCOs driving environmental crimes.  Positioning CEFS at an academic institution increases opportunities to advance new methods, and more easily and nimbly nurture these cross-disciplinary collaborations.

CEFS focuses on combatting illicit trade in fauna and flora applying a diversity of tools and strategies to support state, federal and international law enforcement agencies.  Many of the endangered, high value species we investigate are frequently shipped together, and their unregulated harvest increases the risk of pandemics and climate change. Some of the TCOs moving these products also traffic in narcotics, weapons, and people.

Core Services Offered

Forensic analyses of fauna and flora using DNA, isotopes, mass spectrometry, visual imagery, high-throughput tools for rapid detection of contraband.  Capacity building in developing countries.

Funding Information

Washington State Legislature, UNDP, DHS, Wildcat, private donors

Reporting Structure

Chair of the Department of Biology

Related UW Entities

Burke Museum, Biology, SAFS, SEFS, CoMotion, Bioengineering, Chemistry, Earth and Space Sciences, Genome Sciences, Mechanical and nano-engineering, pathology, physics, statistics, eScience, Environmental and Occupational Health, Computer Science, Biostatistics, Law School

External Partners

Homeland Security Investigations, US Forest Service International Program, WA Department of Fish and Wildlife, CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, Environment Canada, CSIR-Forestry Research Institute of Ghana, Singapore NPARKS, Center for Wildlife Forensics, Wildlife Institute of India, World Forest ID, World Resources Institute, Conservation X Labs, Allen Institute for AI, Conservation International, Environmental Investigation Agency, Grace Farms, Maisha Group, Eagle, Agroisolabs