It’s my pleasure to welcome back Fiona Quinn to Murder Blog, with a fascinating post about wildlife forensics. The post is so informative I don’t want to ruin it by rambling, so let’s get right to it. Over to you, Fiona!
In wildlife forensics, an investigator attempts to tie a person or an object to a crime scene by using natural elements. These might include:
* Pollen grains
* Animal hair (ThrillWriting blog link)
* Protists (single celled organisms found in water)
Soil analysis might be able to link…
- The shoes of a suspect (ThrillWriting blog article: footwear evidence)
- Show where a car has traveled
- Show soil from where a victim was left.
Soil is made up of…
- Inorganic – percentages of the combinations and make up of the
soil differs from region to region so can help pinpoint an area
- minerals (naturally occurring crystals)
- decaying animal and bug matter
- scat (dung)
- Man made
Who will test this information in the crime lab?
Video Quick Study (4:24) talks about using soil in Manson murder
Video Quick Study (9:11) soil samples might be analysed for poison and environmental crimes.
Soils vary in…
Munsell System – describes the color of the soil
* Chroma (purity of the color)
* Hue – the color
* Value – amount of white or black
2. Texture – like clay
3. Particle size – measured through a graduated sieve.
Pollen and Protists
Under a microscope investigators look for samples of pollen, protists.
Palynology — the study of spores and pollen.
Pollen and spores make good forensic evidence because…
– they don’t degrade easily
– distinctive to a locality
– help clue investigator to determine if the body was moved from one location to another
- Reproduce at certain times of the year — a good way to narrow the time-frame. Example: algae blooms in water
If the body was in water, or is suspected to have been in water, protists might be able to lead them to a specific location via SEM (scanning electron microscope).
Video Quick Study (5:45) Pollen under the microscope and identification
Video Quick Study (1:50) Forensic botanist testifies at Casey Anthony trial
Video Quick Study (1:09) Forensic botany
How is identifying wood helpful in an investigation?
Clues that might help identify a piece of wood…
- cut marks
- nail holes
- unique species
- species coming from a distinct region
In the Lindbergh baby abduction the suspect used a homemade ladder that was left at the scene. The wood expert looked at the tool marks to differentiate the types of wood used in the construction.
Video Quick Study (3:28) Lindbergh wood expert
An animal might actually be the suspect.
Perhaps the investigator is trying to determine which animal attacked a human.
- Diseased animals (such as rabies) might cause attacks.
Bite marks are examined by forensic odontologists (dentists)
Video Quick Study (2:25) forensic odontologist at work
- Animals at large are tracked using the same methods as with humans (ThrillWriting blog article: footwear)
If the investigator suspects the animal that attacked/ate someone was found, the investigators will examine the animal’s stomach contents.
An animal might be the victim if one of the following occurs…
On sale for $1.50 (click cover)*Poaching
Video Quick Study (2:16) Wildlife forensic biologist
* Poisoning/baiting – tested by forensic chemists
* Hunting outside of the proper season or with illegal methods
* Illegal trade in protected wildlife is the third largest grouping of criminal activity following drugs and guns.
- Worth billions a year.
- Endangered Animals and Plants – Over 30,000 plant and animal species garner special protection.
- Can be found in the form of meats, fish, or fish roe available for consumption. DNA would be used to try to determine the number of animals involved by finding out how many unique DNA patterns are present.
Clothing might be made from the body of a protected species.
Ground into medicines – investigated by forensic chemists
Wildlife is protected in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security – Border Protection Division Information Link
Protect endangered species
- Protect our eco-systems from the introduction of invasive species.
- Snarge – the pulverized bird remains stuck to an airplane.
Samples of birds and birds pieces are kept at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. The feathers and bird remains found at the scene or an airplane accident help to determine if the plane was downed by birds.
Video Quick Study (13:22) Goes through the forensics of flight 1549 and bird strike forensics.
All of the same scene and evidence protocols have to be maintained (ThrillWriting blog article: CSI 101)
- EPA involvement
Dead zones on land and in water
* Dead wildlife
- Accidental or criminal poisoning of the environment
Critical investigative work because these toxins enter the food chain and effect our health.
Video Quick Study (2:13) Dan River coal ash – human water supply, environmental impact.
Connect with Fiona
Join her mailing list for a free novella!