Visitors Welcomed to Forest Products Lab Earth Day Open House

April 22, the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin opened its doors to showcase its work to curious adults and children. The Earth Day Open House event was a special opportunity for the estimated two hundred visitors to come inside the Lab and explore wood product exhibits and learn how the Forest Products Lab research benefits forests and communities.

Young Derek Mueller enjoyed spending time with his pals Woodsy Owl and Smokey Bear

“It’s always a pleasure to meet the public and talk to them about what we do at the Lab,” said Facility Operations Specialist Robert Ramos. “Everyone enjoyed looking at our older but functional woodworking equipment. The kids enjoyed the Woodsy Owl coasters we gave away, while adults admired the display table we made from composite decking.”

During this year’s Earth Day event, exciting hands-on exhibits encouraged visitors to attempt to achieve speed records by throwing baseballs or play with termites by doodling with pens (the ink scent leads termites to follow the drawn lines). Visitors also learned about the art and intricacies of wood anatomy research. Children and adults alike got to hang out with Woodsy Owl and Smokey Bear and made “wood cookie” necklaces.

Guests at the Forest Products Laboratory on Earth Day enjoyed visiting numerous interesting exhibits, run by scientists like Cai Zhiyong (second from left), Rachel Arango (far back, fourth from right), and Biljana Bujanovik (far right).

Comments heard from guests ranged from “Wow, I had no idea termites are so small,” to “I pass by this building all the time and never knew what the Forest Products Lab was about – I’m glad I could finally check it out,” to “Can I hug Bear again?”

“It’s exciting to explain to the public how the research and development of forest products play important roles in fighting climate change and protecting our environment for future generations,” said Research Forest Products Technologist Hongmei Gu.

Radar speed tester in one hand, Engineer Steve Kalinovsky encourages Kit Siebers to throw a baseball as hard as she can.

“I had a blast!” said Steve Kalinosky, project leader at the Engineering Mechanics and Remote Sensing Laboratory. “Between helping kids pitch baseballs and clocking the speed of their throws, I was able to engage with many of the parents and other adults, telling them about the Major League baseball bat study and the materials and structural research we perform in the Engineering Mechanics Lab.

“Most people didn’t know about the great research we perform at the Lab and were fascinated by what we do. Everyone had a great time. And small and big kids loved getting to throw balls around.”

Since 1910, the Forest Products Laboratory has championed innovative wood use – from housing to transportation to packaging. The Lab takes wood product production farther. Its research creates jobs, boosts rural communities, strengthens the housing market, promotes forest health, and reduces wildfire risk.

The Remarkable Legacy of Eloise Gerry 

Eloise Gerry worked as a wood scientist at the Forest Products Laboratory from 1910 through 1954.

The Forest Products Laboratory has greatly benefitted from its wealth of women scientists. Starting it all was Eloise Gerry, who joined the Lab at its inception in 1910. Gerry made ground-breaking discoveries for 44 years. 

Originally a Bostonian, Eloise earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science with a special interest in forestry at the Radcliffe College for Women at Harvard University. Completing a graduate degree in the early 1900s was rare for anyone, but of far greater rarity for a woman. She was drawn to microscopy and used this skill to identify wood specimens.  

After years of specialized education and training, Gerry began to look for work that would allow her to further explore her interests and contribute to the world. Despite her outstanding educational background, her job search could have been years in the making. Fortunately for Gerry and the Forest Products Lab, she saw an ad that led to her dream career.  

The Lab had advertised for a researcher in its new Wood Anatomy division, using masculine pronouns for “such a man.” Gerry later recalled: “They did not want a woman, but as it happened, there wasn’t any man willing to come and do the work.” 

Gerry’s southern pines program rescued the turpentine industry
Gerry’s numerous scientific studies are still relevant today

Despite the Lab’s desire to hire a man, Eloise became the Lab’s first female scientist in what is known today as the Center for Wood Anatomy Research. Her work focused on the anatomical and physiological study of wood.  

By the late 1910s and now a transplanted Wisconsonite, Gerry made sure she was able to travel in her job to pursue major field work in other states. 

She traveled on horseback, in Ford Model Ts, and on foot through the woods of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi to collect samples. She studied them under her microscope and helped to restore businesses that were dependent on resin and turpentine by proving that lumberjacks were cutting too many of the area’s pine trees.1 

Eloise Gerry is seen here in 1936 with her beloved wire-haired terrier, Penny.

Earning her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in 1922, her dissertation, “Oleoresin Production: A Microscopic Study of the Effects Produced on Woody tissues of Southern Pines by Different Methods of Turpentining” is still relevant today. This and many of her other studies from her 120 technical journal publications can be found at bookstores, the Forest Products Library, and public libraries all over the United States.  

In one of her few known acts of rebellion against the sensibility of the times, Eloise always signed her full name, rather than using a single first initial, so that it was clear she was a woman. 

Dr. Eloise Gerry is perhaps best known today for her research in increasing the life and production of Southern pine trees, which was highly influential and significantly contributed to the production of turpentine, turning around an industry that had been floundering previously. The title of her program that changed the industry was: “More turpentine, less scar, better pine.” 

“The microscope reveals many secrets concerning the activities of the tree in producing turpentine and gives these results more quickly than experimental methods alone,” Eloise told The Atlanta Constitution in 1922. 

Fortunately for the country and its allies during World War I and World War II, the years Eloise worked as a devoted scientist at the Lab resulted in her many improvements to the production of military supplies. 

Dr. Eloise Gerry was memorialized on this plaque by the Florida Society of American Foresters, as she was posthumously inducted into the FSAF Hall of Fame in 2022.

Eloise Gerry was widely admired by her friends everywhere and not just for her remarkable professional life. On a personal level, she was typically described as possessing a friendly and welcoming spirit. She especially loved children and dogs. She led tours of the Lab for children and wrote several children’s books in her lifetime. She was also a member of her local kennel club. 

Shortly after her retirement in 1954, her longtime friend, neighbor, and Lab colleague Benson H. Paul, said of her: “She has given of herself not only in scientific fields but in the world about her with the generous impulses of a warm heart. Evidently, she has made a life pattern from the living forest that gives and gives yet seeks nothing in return.”  

Eloise’s legacy lives on. In 2022, the Florida Division of the Southeastern Society of American Foresters – State Home ( inducted her into its Hall of Fame. Dr. Eloise Gerry is the first woman in its history to receive this honor.  

1 From “Eloise Gerry” by Adam Schrager. OnWisconsin, Spring 2022 

Painstaking Repair Begins on Microscope Slides from the Wood Anatomy Lab

By Michael Wiemann, Botanist, and Richard Kleiber Soares, Biologist, Forest Products Laboratory

The wood anatomy unit of the Forest Products Laboratory began its work in June of 1910 with the arrival of Eloise Gerry, the first woman scientist in the Forest Service. Gerry was hired to prepare and photograph microscope slides for wood anatomical study. This was a problem, because at the time the Lab didn’t have any wood samples!

This ad placed by the Lab for a “xylotomist,” or person who prepares microscope slides to examine woods, assumed that the candidate who got the job would be a man.

Gerry began to assemble a collection through donations from other institutions, primarily duplicates from Yale University’s wood collection. “Xylotomist” Arthur Koehler, famous for his work in the Lindbergh kidnapping trial, joined the wood anatomy staff in 1914 and brought with him a small wood collection. In 1945, when B.F. “Kuky” Kukachka was hired from his forestry teaching position at Louisiana State University, he began reorganizing the 11,000 samples in the Forest Products Laboratory wood collection.

Eloise Gerry at work at the Forest Products Laboratory

The number of samples increased gradually, then substantially with the addition of 55,000 wood samples (plus microscope slides) from Yale University in 1969, then again two years later with 8,000 more wood samples from the Chicago Field Museum. More than 7,000 prepared slides were donated by Duke University in 2007.

In addition to its 100,000 blocks representing more than 15,000 woody species from around the world, the wood collection of the Forest Products Laboratory now has 50,000 microscope slides of thin sections from these species. These slides were meticulously prepared by Lab personnel or were obtained through exchange or donation. Because it does not require a great deal more effort to prepare multiple slides than to prepare only one, many institutions exchange slides.

Restoration of slides began in April 2022 by Research Specialist Richard Kleiber Soares with funding from the Forest Service International Programs.

The samples prepared at the Forest Products Lab were typically used for wood anatomy research. One of the largest of these studies was wood anatomist B.F. Kukachka’s 1970s and 1980s work on the difficult pantropical genera of the Sapotaceae, a family of flowering plants that includes evergreen trees. This study was challenging not only because of its taxonomic complexity, but especially because the woods are “refractory,” meaning it is very difficult to prepare thin sections from them. Other studies focused on commercially important species whose separation from look-alikes is important to avoid inadvertent (or sometimes deliberate) misidentifications.

An unfortunate characteristic of one of the mounting media widely used in the preparation of microscope slides is its tendency to crystallize with age, resulting in partial or total obliteration of microscopic features. These slides must be cleaned up and remounted, a procedure requiring great care, patience, and skill. Remounting requires soaking a slide in xylene or an equivalent solvent to loosen the coverslip and sections, then carefully placing the freed sections onto a new glass slide with new mounting media.

Mounted Dalbergia sections (in crystallized medium) stored in a slide holder.

A recent survey of the slides in the Lab collection found that about one-third of them are unusable due to crystallization. The Dalbergia slides shown in the slide holder pictured below are examples of crystallization. Restoration of these and other slides began in April 2022 by Richard Kleiber Soares with funding from the Forest Service International Programs. Photographs from the slides of the two species show that the presence of crystallized mounting media can obscure the quality of the underlying sections. The cross-sections were excessively thick and had radial splits. However, the anatomical characters – such as the tangential bands of parenchyma in D. mammosa and the presence and absence of gum in both species – become evident after remounting.

Dalbergia mammosa (top) and Dalbergia lineata (bottom).

The photos below show a block of Bumelia lanuginosa with a “sectioning cube” removed; a slide prepared from it shows crystallization in progress, and a slide with the restored and remounted wood sections awaits proper labelling.  ‘Proj. I BWCw’ on the slide means that it came from the Brown Wood Collection at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse, the lead institution of Project I, in which various agencies cooperated from 1933 to 1953 in the collection of 800 vouchered wood samples from throughout the United States and Canada.

The photos of the block and two slides of Bumelia
The above photos of cross-sections (top four) and tangential sections (bottom four) show low and high magnification of Bumelia lanuginosa. Although the vessels and rays can be barely distinguished in the crystallized media (left), the remounted slides (right) clearly show that the wood is ring-porous, the latewood vessels and vascular tracheids are in dendritic pattern, apotracheal parenchyma is abundant, and the rays are two to three cells wide and heterogeneous

The Forest Products Laboratory Celebrates Women and Girls in Science 

Saturday (Feb. 11) is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Recognized by the United Nations, this day offers us an opportunity to celebrate the many women scientists at the Forest Products Lab.  

Eloise Gerry, one of the first woman scientists to come on board the Forest Products Laboratory when it began in 1910, specialized in wood anatomy. Gerry went on to do pioneering work in the study of resin-producing pines, contributed to the production of military supplies during both World Wars, and published more than 120 ground-breaking scientific articles. She worked at the Forest Products Laboratory for 44 years. 

Chemist Linda Lorenz has been working on research related to adhesives for the past 37 years. Before that, she began work with the Forest Products Lab in 1966 with the study of wood preservatives. Photo by JoshuaLimbaughUSDAForestService

The idea of females in science is not new, but girls and woman have faced many challenges through the years, despite their equal potential with men. The need to encourage girls to study science and choose careers in the field is still important.  

As the United Nation’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has aptly observed: “We can all do our part to unleash our world’s enormous untapped talent – starting with filling classrooms, laboratories and boardrooms with women scientists.” International Day of Women and Girls in Science | United Nations. 

According to the American Association of University Women, “Girls and women are systematically tracked away from science and math throughout their education, limiting their access, preparation and opportunities to go into these fields as adults.The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – AAUW : Empowering Women Since 1881

Despite historic challenges for women in science, here at the Forest Products Laboratory we are fortunate to have many women among our top scientists. With this in mind, we asked a few women how they became interested in science. 

Research Scientist Hongmei Gu studies wood as an engineering material. Photo by JoshuaLimbaughUSDAForestService

“I’ve known since the age of five that I wanted to be a scientist,” recalled Kara Yedinak, who works in Fire Physics at the Lab. “Before I decided on physics and atmospheric sciences, I toyed with both chemistry and rocket science. My younger brother promised to be an astronaut so I could launch him into space! It’s cool to think about how I wasn’t too far off from my current profession at the start of it all.” 

Nayomi Plaza specializes in Scattering and Wood Nanoscale Characterization at the Lab. She reminisced that “My childhood was sprinkled with so many moments that were STEM oriented. I remember fixing clocks in the house when I was bored, and so many science fair projects with topics ranging from which detergent was best at removing stains, to the life of my freshwater snail, to the health benefits of chamomile, to name just a few.” 

Director Cynthia West of the Forest Products Laboratory and the Northern Research Station said, “I chose forest products research as a career path to contribute to a sustainable future for all our children and future generations.”   

Dr. West holds a BS degree in Forestry Management, an MBA in Marketing and Management, and a PhD in Wood Science and Forest Products. As a research scientist, she has published more than 60 papers and presented at more than 80 conferences on forest sector trade and industry development. 

Find more interesting stories about women who work with the Forest Products Laboratory through these links: 

FPL Fire Research Featured in America’s Test Kitchen Lab Notes (  

FPL Researcher Dr. Nayomi Plaza Honored with HENAAC Great Minds in STEM Award Lab Notes ( 

Brazilian Scientists Thrive Professionally Through Partnership Between FPL and MSU Lab Notes ( 

FPL Scientist Hongmei Gu Earns Research Award Lab Notes ( 

Chemist Celebrates 55 Years with FPL Lab Notes ( 

Forest Products Laboratory: A Legacy of Women Researchers Lab Notes ( 

The Next in Forest Products Laboratory’s Women in STEM Legacy Lab Notes ( 

Forest Products Laboratory and Northern Research Station Welcome New Director Lab Notes ( 

Forest Products Laboratory Scientist Makes Historical Black College / Science Connection Lab Notes ( 

FPL Researcher Featured in Engineering News-Record Lab Notes ( 

Forest Products Laboratory Scientist Makes Historical Black College / Science Connection

Attendees pose for a group photo during the 2022 Engineering Conference of the Alabama State University Biomedical Engineering Program. Dr. Roderquita Moore is pictured in the front row, second from left. Photo by David Campbell, ASU.

Roderquita Moore, a research chemist with the Fiber & Composites Research department of the Forest Products Laboratory, has two strong outside interests. As a young woman growing up in a family who was devoted to their church in rural Georgia, she loves music and helping others.

“Being involved in church activities formed the foundation of who I am today,” she said.

Having graduated from Tuskegee University with her BS and MS degrees, then going on to Clark Atlanta University to obtain her PhD – all Historical Black Colleges and Universities – Roderquita joined the Forest Products Laboratory in 2004 as a research scientist intern through the Student Career Experience Program – now known as “Pathways.”

During her years of research here at the Lab, she has eagerly gotten involved in mentoring young people as much as she can. Over the summer four years ago, for example, she worked with K-12 public school teachers and students at an HBCU in Charlotte, N.C., instructing the teachers on the creation of materials using nanocellulose created by the Lab.

One of her most notable initiatives has been the Research Leadership Consortium, which Roderquita developed on her own in 2010.

During her visitation on the ASU campus, Dr. Roderquita Moore worked in the laboratory of Derrick Dean, a professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department, with three student interns (left to right): James Cade II, Nicholas Barlow, and Chris Capshaw, who are pictured here using a 3D printer. The students also used an extruder to mix the materials, a tetrahedral press to mold the materials, and a scanning electron microscope to examine materials at a nanometer range. Photo by Roderquita Moore.

“The objective of RLC is to collaborate with Historical Black Colleges and Universities and establish research in developing environmental and therapeutic applications, using Forest Service resources in the areas of added/high-value chemicals, sustainability, and nanotechnology,” Roderquita said. “These efforts expose K-12 as well as higher education faculty and students to USDA-FS research.”

Above all, Roderquita has made it her mission to increase the diverse pool of scientific candidates at the higher-education level for research and development work in all areas of scientific pursuits with the Forest Service and other major public and private institutes.

The most recent Historical Black Colleges and Universities / Forest Services connection Roderquita has been involved with was just two months ago at an engineering conference with the Alabama State University Biomedical Engineering Program, where she was invited to attend as a visiting professor.

She gave the opening address, “My Transition from Student to Forest Service Researcher,” and worked with faculty and students on the fabrication of shape-responsive composites.

“My presentation introduced students to Forest Service research and the surprising connection of wood to biomedical engineering,” explained Roderquita. “I encouraged students to be open to a forever-evolving career in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.”

Interested students were encouraged to add their names to the Forest Service recruitment database.

One student, Chris Capshaw, thanked Dr. Moore for the opportunity to participate in the internship at Alabama State University. “I was able to gain knowledge about specialized instruments, which allowed me to see and understand the results of mixing Cellulose nanocrystals with polylactic acid,” he said. “Dr. Moore’s presentation inspired me to continue to remain focused on learning the research techniques I need to use my biomedical engineering degree to help others.”