Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wildlife Forensics - Information for Writers


Forest lake in summer
Forest lake in summer (Photo credit: Axel-D)
In wildlife forensics, an investigator attempts to tie a person or an object to a crime scene by using natural elements. These might include:
* Soil 
* Wood
* Pollen grains
* Animal hair (blog link)
* Animals
* Insects (blog link)
* Protists (single celled organisms found in water)


Soil types
Soil types (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Soil analysis might be able to link
* The shoes of a suspect (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)
* Organic
   `decaying animal and bug matter
   `scat (dung)
* Man made 

Who will test this information in the crime lab?
* Chemists
* Geologists
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 - 
1. Color
    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.
4. Chemistry


Under a microscope investigators look for samples of pollen, protists
Scanning electron micrograph of Ipomoea purpur...
Scanning electron micrograph of Ipomoea purpurea pollen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 - so they could narrow
   time frames.
   Ex. 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.
   SEM - scanning electron microscope

Video Quick Study (5:45) Pollen under the microscope and
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? 
English: Pile of woods.
English: Pile of woods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* Clues that might help
   identify a piece of wood
   `cut marks
   `nail holes
   `unique species
   `Species coming from a 
    distinct region
* Lindbergh baby abduction
   used a homemade ladder
   was left at the scene. The
   wood expert looked at the tool marks used to
   make the ladder and the different types of wood that were
   included in the construction
   Video Quick Study (3:28) Lindbergh wood expert


An animal might 
English: Black bear
English: Black bear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
actually be the suspect
* Perhaps the investigator
   is trying to determine
   which animal attacked a
* Diseased animals might
   cause attacks (such
    as rabies)
* Bite marks are examined
   by forensic odontologists
   Video Quick Study (2:25) forensic odontologist at work
* Animals at large are tracked using the same methods
   as with humans (blog article: footwear)
* If the investigator suspects the animal that attacked/ate someone
   was found the investigators will examine the animal's stomach 

English: Baby elephants in "The David She...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An animal might be the victim
* Abuse
* 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

Snakes in a speaker 1
Snakes in a speaker 1 (Photo credit: USFWS/Southeast)

Video Quick Study (2:14) new wildlife forensics lab to protect the wildlife
Video Quick Study (6:44) Being a Wildlife ranger - protecting the animals is incredibly dangerous. What great heroes and heroines to write into a plot line. 
Video Quick Study (6:29) CSI for wildlife

*Inspectors might find animal hair that help link a suspect to a
  crime scene (blog article: fur evidence)
* 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.

The Environment - 

All of the same scene and evidence protocols have to be maintained (blog article: CSI 101)

Dead fish up close
Dead fish up close (Photo credit: severinus)
* EPA involvement
* Dead zones on land and in
* Strange Odors
Dead wildlife 
* Accidental or criminal
   poisoning of the environment
   `Heavy metals
 * 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.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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