Environmental Forensics: Ecology, Diatomology, Palynology, Anthropology

Forensic Ecology is the use of environmental evidence types to assist in investigating crime, both outdoors and indoors. The most commonly encountered areas are forensic anthropology, forensic archaeology, forensic diatomology, forensic entomology, forensic botany and palynology (pollen).

Forensic Entomology can provide valuable evidence to assist in establishing post-mortem interval (and hence time of death) as well as other matters such as whether or not a body was moved after death. Collection and preservation of the appropriate evidence is vital for an accurate assessment to be made, as is the accurate recording of environmental conditions and we would always recommend that contact is made with an expert at the earliest opportunity to obtain the appropriate advice and to establish whether a scene visit is required.

Diatoms are algae, microscopic unicellular plants that can be found in saltwater, freshwater, soils and on damp surfaces. In a case of “common drowning”, water, containing diatoms, enters the lungs and then passes into the bloodstream where the diatoms are circulated around the body to all body organs. The presence or absence of diatoms within the lungs and other body organs can assist in establishing whether drowning was the cause of death or significantly contributed to the cause of death.

Forensic palynology is the examination and comparison of pollen, spores and other microscopic particles. It can assist in any crime where there is a requirement to establish whether or not an animal, person or vehicle may have been in a particular location. Palynology is often used in association with other evidence types. For example, it might be useful to carry out a comparison of soil on an exhibit with soil from a scene of crime and to also carry out a comparison of the pollen from both locations. A botanical survey of the location may also assist with the interpretation. Our team can also provide Forensic Botany services most commonly to help in the identification of botanical samples which can be useful in determining what an animal may have eaten in suspected poisoning cases.

Forensic Archaeology is used to assist in the location, recovery and interpretation of buried evidence. It is most commonly used in cases involving animal and human remains and items associated with burial, but can also assist in examination of other items associated with crime or terrorism such as weapons and drugs.

Forensic Anthropology is used to establish identity both in the living and the dead. Our experts can also determine whether remains are animal or human and we offer a free initial advisory service for this if you are able to supply a photograph.