Dr. Samuel Wasser holds the endowed chair in Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, where he is a Professor in the Department of Biology and Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Forensic Science.
He is acknowledged worldwide for developing noninvasive tools for monitoring human impacts on wildlife. His lab developed tests to determine the major elephant poaching hotspots across Africa by extracting DNA from tusks acquired from large ivory seizures (≥ 0.5 tons) and comparing that to a DNA reference map derived from dung sampled from elephants across Africa. They expanded these genetic tools to link major ivory traffickers to multiple large ivory shipments by matching tusks from the same elephant or from close relatives (e.g., parent and offspring, or brothers and sisters), found in separate shipments that passed through a common port. This work is conducted in close collaboration with government agencies from across Africa, SE Asia and the United States, and is part of a comprehensive program to combat transnational criminal organizations trafficking in environmental contraband.