U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Forensics Laboratory

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Cross-Section of African Elephant Tail Hair. Credit: USFWS

About the Laboratory

OUR LAB'S TIMELINE

December, 1985: LE was allocated $1,000,000 out of the FWS budget to build a wildlife forensics laboratory somewhere, and I began evaluating possible building sites all around the country in between working on the building design.

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June, 1986: Thanks in part to the efforts of Dr. Wehinger, Ashland, OR, was selected as the site … we were allocated an additional 3.5 million dollars to construct the building and purchase scientific instrumentation … and I started re-designing the lab facility with the help of an engineering design firm, Sverdrup.

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August, 1986: we held our ground-breaking ceremonies on the northern end of what was then the Southern Oregon State College campus, where our first-of-a-kind wildlife crime lab would be located.

Lab construction begins. Credit: USFWS.
Lab construction begins. Credit: USFWS.

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September, 1987: the final design plans were approved, a construction firm was hired, and construction began.

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August, 1988: construction of the building was completed, and I began the process of hiring our initial lab team (10 forensic scientists and support staff) and purchasing our initial lab instruments.

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July, 1989: dedication ceremonies were held for the National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.  After dedication remarks by Lab Director Ken Goddard, SOSC President Joe Cox, Regional FWS Director Marv Plenart, and FWS Law Enforcement Chief Clark Bavin, the ribbon was cut by U.S. Senators Bob Packwood and Mark Hatfield.

Chief criminalist Dr. Ed Espinoza is featured on the cover of the local paper: Forensics Lab Wins International Award. Credit: USFWS.
Chief criminalist Dr. Ed Espinoza is featured on the cover of the local paper: "Forensics Lab Wins International Award." Credit: USFWS.

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October, 1990: The Lab wins an international award for best research paper presented to the International Association of Forensic Sciences meeting in Adelaide, Australia. The research, conducted by chief criminalist Dr. Ed Espinoza and criminalist Mary-Jacque Mann, enabled the lab to distinguish pieces of ancient (non-fossilized) Mammoth and Mastodon ivories from modern elephant ivory.

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April, 1991: The lab is re-dedicated as the Clark R. Bavin National Fish & Wildlife Forensic Laboratory in memory of FWS Law Enforcement Chief Clark Bavin. Present at the re-dedication ceremonies were USFWS Director John Turner, Law Enforcement Chief John Doggett, and Clark Bavin’s mother, wife, sister and sons.

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The Lab is designated the official crime lab of the Wildlife Working Group of INTERPOL and CITES. Credit: INTERPOL.
The Lab is designated the official crime lab of the Wildlife Working Group of INTERPOL and CITES. Credit: INTERPOL.

October, 1998:  At the headquarters of INTERPOL (Lyon, France), the Secretary of INTERPOL and the Secretary of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), sign treaties designating the National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Lab as the official crime lab of the Wildlife Working Group of Interpol and of CITES.

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February, 2002:  The lab purchased a laser surface scanner to create three-dimensional “pixel-skin” images of bones, skulls and other morphological structures.  This instrument should allow us to share and exchange images of rare specimens from museums and universities throughout the world.

Photo on left: Lab morphologist Dr. Pepper Trail uses a new laser scanner to create digital images of a wolf skull. Photo on right: Scanning a wolf tooth. Credit: USFWS.
Photo on left: Lab morphologist Dr. Pepper Trail uses a new laser scanner to create digital images of a wolf skull. Photo on right: Scanning a wolf tooth. Credit: USFWS.

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June, 2002:  After a fairly grueling 1-week inspection of our facilities, analytical and safety protocols, and case/evidence management systems, the lab attained accreditation status from the American Society of Crime Lab Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB).

This was a pretty big accomplishment for us because the ASCLD/LAB accreditation system was designed for the nation’s 300+ ‘police’ crime labs that handle police-type evidence, and we’re a bit different.  As an example: “trace evidence” in a police crime lab might consist of loose hairs, glass fragments and paint chips, whereas a ”trace evidence” item in our lab might be half of a rhino (as opposed to the whole critter).
As you might imagine, the ASCLD/LAB inspector who evaluated the morphology section of our lab was a bit overwhelmed at first.  But crime lab folks are nothing if not adaptive.  Much to our relief, he quickly figured out how and where our protocols fit into the overall scheme of ASCLD/LAB accreditation.

“Accreditation is part of a laboratory’s quality assurance program which should also include proficiency testing, continuing education and other programs to help the laboratory give better overall service to the criminal justice system.” ~ ASCLD/LAB Manual

The Lab addition. Credit: USFWS.
The Lab addition. Credit: USFWS.

Our new bug room. Credit: USFWS.
Our new bug room. Credit: USFWS.

U.S. Congressman Walden cut the ribbon at the Lab's dedication ceremony. Credit: USFWS.
U.S. Congressman Walden cut the ribbon at the Lab's dedication ceremony. Credit: USFWS.

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April, 2006:  Construction begins on a 17,000 square foot addition to the Clark R. Bavin National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory facility.

We were really happy to see the new, air-tight bug room; mostly because our dermestid beetle colony (a collection of bugs that eat meat off of decaying carcasses, thus giving us pristine skeletons in about two weeks) had been kept in our warm boiler room … and you can probably imagine what warmed-up decaying meat smelled like!

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August, 2007: the dedication ceremony for the lab’s new 17,000 square foot addition. After opening remarks by Lab Director Ken Goddard, Deputy Regional Director Dave Wesley, SOU Interim Provost Ed Battistella, Ashland Mayor John Morrison, and U.S. Congressman Greg Walden, the ribbon was cut by Congressman Walden.

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November, 2007: The lab responds to a Homeland Security mandate to protect its federal building in a unique way. "In place of concrete and barbed wire, Ashland's wildlife forensics lab chose creative landscaping to protect it from would-be car bombers." Story by Mark Freeman in the Medford Mail Tribune.

CAPTION FOR PHOTO: "Ken Goddard stands in the recently redesigned landscape of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland. The design is symbolic and functional it’s designed to protect the lab from terrorist attack." SOURCE: Medford Mail Tribune. PHOTO CREDIT: Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Ken Goddard stands in the recently redesigned landscape of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland.

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January, 2008: a ‘ballistics’ tank designed to test fire high-powered rifles (thereby obtaining a ‘known’ comparison bullets from those weapons) is installed in the lab.

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