12:15 - 1:15 p.m., WSCC, Ballroom 6A
Forensic Geology: The Applications of Geology to Police and Law Enforcement
Laurance Donnelly, Chair, International Union of Geological Sciences, Initiative on Forensic Geology
Forensic geology (also known as forensic geoscience or geoforensics) is the application of geology to policing and law enforcement, which may potentially be applicable to a court of law. Forensic geologists provide advice and support in relation to: serious crimes (homicide and sexual assaults), organized crime, counter terrorism, kidnapping, humanitarian incidents, environmental crimes, wildlife crime, precious minerals, illegal mining, metals and minerals theft, fraudulent crimes, fakes and search.
Generally, forensic geologists may support the police by; (a) providing the analysis of geological (trace) evidence, (b) crime scene examinations or (c) conducting ground and water searches.
Geological (trace) evidence involves the collection of evidence from a crime scene, offender or item, followed by analysis, interpretation, presentation and explanation of geological evidence. This may be used to help determine what happened, where and when it occurred. Geological evidence can vary considerably and may include for example; rock fragments, soils and sediments, which occur naturally on the ground, artificial (anthropogenic) man-made materials derived from geological raw materials (such as bricks, concrete, glass or plaster board) or micro-fossils. These may be transferred onto a body, person or the clothing of a victim or offender. This evidence may then be used to see if there could be an association between different items or objects.
Forensic geologists also search for locating objects buried in the ground, concealed or discarded in water including; homicide graves, mass graves related to genocide, weapons, firearms, improvised explosive devise components, drugs, stolen items, money, coinage and jewelry.
In the past decade or more years there have been at approximately 227 recorded international forensic geology events, 9 text books have been published and numerous technical papers, conference proceedings and popular press articles. Professional workings groups have been established specially aimed at promoting and developing forensic geology around the world, such as the International Union of Geological Sciences, Initiative on Forensic Geology (IUGS-IFG). Together, these all demonstrate the global wealth in activity and interest in forensic geology.
This presentation provides an overview of forensic geology. It draws on operational case work experiences and provides information on the logistical aspects of working with the police. It should be noted, in context with the theme of this presentation, images of crime scenes and human remains will be included.