Forensic geology

Forensic geology is the study of evidence relating to minerals, oil, petroleum, and other materials found in the Earth, used to answer questions raised by the legal system.

In 1975, Ray Murray and fellow Rutgers University professor John Tedrow published Forensic Geology.[1]

More recently, in 2008, Alastair Ruffell and Jennifer McKinley, both of Queen's University Belfast, UK, published Geoforensics[2] a book that focuses more on the use of geomorphology and geophysics for searches. In 2012, Elisa Bergslien, at SUNY Buffalo State, published a general textbook on the topic, An Introduction to Forensic Geoscience. [3]

Early use of forensic geology

According to Murray, forensic geology began with Sherlock Holmes writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The character Sherlock Holmes claimed to be able to identify where an individual had been by various methods, including his having memorized the exposed geology of London to such a degree that detecting certain clays on a person's shoe would give away a locale. Georg Popp, of Frankfurt, Germany, may have been the first to use soil analysis for linking suspects to a crime scene.[4] In 1891, Hans Gross used microscopic analysis of soils and other materials from a suspect's shoes to link him to the crime scene.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Murray, Raymond C. and Tedrow, John C. F. (1975) Forensic Geology: Earth sciences and criminal investigation Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, ISBN 978-0-8135-0794-1; second edition 1992, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, ISBN 978-0-13-327453-0; replaced by Murray, Raymond C. (2004) Evidence from the Earth: Forensic geology and criminal investigation Mountain Press Publications, Missoula, Montana, ISBN 978-0-87842-498-6
  2. ^ Ruffell, Alastair and McKinley, Jennifer (2008) Geoforensics John Wiley and Sons, West Sussex, England, ISBN 978-0-470-05735-3
  3. ^ Bergslien, Elisa (2012) An Introduction to Forensic Geoscience Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, England, UK, ISBN 978-1-4051-6054-4
  4. ^ Bell, Suzanne (2004) "geology, forensic" The Facts on File Dictionary of Forensic Science Infobase Publishing, New York, page 102, ISBN 978-0-8160-5153-3
  5. ^ Donnelly, Laurance (2011) "The Renaissance in Forensic Geology" Teaching Earth Sciences 36(1): pp. 46–52
Audio forensics

Audio forensics is the field of forensic science relating to the acquisition, analysis, and evaluation of sound recordings that may ultimately be presented as admissible evidence in a court of law or some other official venue.Audio forensic evidence may come from a criminal investigation by law enforcement or as part of an official inquiry into an accident, fraud, accusation of slander, or some other civil incident.The primary aspects of audio forensics are establishing the authenticity of audio evidence, performing enhancement of audio recordings to improve speech intelligibility and the audibility of low-level sounds, and interpreting and documenting sonic evidence, such as identifying talkers, transcribing dialog, and reconstructing crime or accident scenes and timelines.Modern audio forensics makes extensive use of digital signal processing, with the former use of analog filters now being obsolete. Techniques such as adaptive filtering and discrete Fourier transforms are used extensively.Recent advances in audio forensics techniques include voice biometrics and electrical network frequency analysis.

Body identification

Body identification is a subfield of forensic science wherein investigators need to identify a body. Forensic (literally, "for the courts") purposes are served by rigorous scientific forensic identification techniques, but these are generally preceded by simply asking bystanders or other persons for the victim's name.If a body is not badly decomposed or damaged, two persons (or one) who knew the deceased well should visually confirm the identity.Authorities will also compare supportive documents such as driver's license, passport, or other authoritative photo ID before accepting a personal identification with which to further their investigative and/or forensic purposes.Any formal investigation should "reality check" additional forensic and scientific evidence to reinforce or question the supposed identity of the victim. Reliable identification becomes increasingly difficult as time passes.

Database forensics

Database forensics is a branch of digital forensic science relating to the forensic study of databases and their related metadata.The discipline is similar to computer forensics, following the normal forensic process and applying investigative techniques to database contents and metadata. Cached information may also exist in a servers RAM requiring live analysis techniques.

A forensic examination of a database may relate to the timestamps that apply to the update time of a row in a relational table being inspected and tested for validity in order to verify the actions of a database user. Alternatively, a forensic examination may focus on identifying transactions within a database system or application that indicate evidence of wrongdoing, such as fraud.

Software tools can be used to manipulate and analyse data. These tools also provide audit logging capabilities which provide documented proof of what tasks or analysis a forensic examiner performed on the database.

Currently many database software tools are in general not reliable and precise enough to be used for forensic work as demonstrated in the first paper published on database forensics.

There is currently a single book published in this field, though more are destined.

Additionally there is a subsequent SQL Server forensics book by Kevvie Fowler named SQL Server Forensics which is well regarded also.The forensic study of relational databases requires a knowledge of the standard used to encode data on the computer disk. A documentation of standards used to encode information in well-known brands of DB such as SQL Server and Oracle has been contributed to the public domain. Others include Apex Analytix.Because the forensic analysis of a database is not executed in isolation, the technological framework within which a subject database exists is crucial to understanding and resolving questions of data authenticity and integrity especially as it relates to database users.

Edmond Locard

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Dr. Edmond Locard (13 December 1877 – 4 April 1966) was a French criminologist, the pioneer in forensic science who became known as the "Sherlock Holmes of France". He formulated the basic principle of forensic science: "Every contact leaves a trace". This became known as Locard's exchange principle.

Fire investigation

Fire investigation, sometimes referred to as origin and cause investigation, is the analysis of fire-related incidents. After firefighters extinguish a fire, an investigation is launched to determine the origin and cause of the fire or explosion. Investigations of such incidents require a systematic approach and knowledge of basic fire science.

Forensic data analysis

Forensic Data Analysis (FDA) is a branch of Digital forensics. It examines structured data with regard to incidents of financial crime. The aim is to discover and analyse patterns of fraudulent activities. Data from application systems or from their underlying databases is referred to as structured data.

Unstructured data in contrast is taken from communication and office applications or from mobile devices. This data has no overarching structure and analysis thereof means applying keywords or mapping communication patterns. Analysis of unstructured data is usually referred to as Computer forensics.

Forensic electrical engineering

Forensic electrical engineering is a branch of forensic engineering, and is concerned with investigating electrical failures and accidents in a legal context. Many forensic electrical engineering investigations apply to fires suspected to be caused by electrical failures. Forensic electrical engineers are most commonly retained by insurance companies or attorneys representing insurance companies, or by manufacturers or contractors defending themselves against subrogation by insurance companies. Other areas of investigation include accident investigation involving electrocution, and intellectual property disputes such as patent actions. Additionally, since electrical fires are most often cited as the cause for "suspect" fires an electrical engineer is often employed to evaluate the electrical equipment and systems to determine whether the cause of the fire was electrical in nature.

Forensic geophysics

Forensic geophysics is a branch of forensic science and is the study, the search, the localization and the mapping of buried objects or elements beneath the soil or the water, using geophysics tools for legal purposes. There are various geophysical techniques for forensic investigations in which the targets are buried and have different dimensions (from weapons or metallic barrels to human burials and bunkers). Geophysical methods have the potential to aid the search and the recovery of these targets because they can non-destructively and rapidly investigate large areas where a suspect, illegal burial or, in general, a forensic target is hidden in the subsoil. When in the subsurface there is a contrast of physical properties between a target and the material in which it is buried, it is possible to individuate and define precisely the concealing place of the searched target. It is also possible to recognize evidences of human soil occupation or excavation, both recent and older. Forensic geophysics is an evolving technique that is gaining popularity and prestige in law enforcement.Searched for objects obviously include clandestine graves of murder victims, but also include unmarked burials in graveyards and cemeteries, weapons used in criminal activities and environmental crime illegally dumping material.

There are various near-surface geophysical techniques that can be utilised to detect a near-surface buried object, which should be site and case-specific. A thorough desk study (including historical maps), utility survey, site reconnaissance and control studies should be undertaken before trial geophysical surveys and then full geophysical surveys are undertaken in phased investigations. Note also other search techniques should be used to first to prioritise suspect areas, for example cadaver dogs or forensic geomorphologists.

Forensic meteorology

Forensic meteorology is meteorology, the scientific study of weather, applied to the process of reconstructing weather events for a certain time and location. This is done by acquiring and analyzing local weather reports such as surface observations, radar and satellite images, other data, and eyewitness accounts. Forensic meteorology is most often used in court cases, including insurance disputes, personal injury cases, and murder investigations. This is most often the case when weather conditions were a possible factor, as in falldowns after snow and ice, wind, flooding, after aviation and nautical accidents, etc. With increasing losses from severe weather in recent years, the demand for forensic meteorological services has also grown. In the US, many forensic meteorologists are certified by the American Meteorological Society (AMS)'s rigorous Certified Consulting Meteorologist (CCM) program.

Forensic palynology

Forensic palynology is the study of pollen, spores and other acid-resistant microscopic plant bodies, including dinoflagellates, to prove or disprove a relationship among objects, people and places that pertain to both criminal and civil cases.

Pollen can reveal where a person or object has been, because regions of the world, countries, and even different parts of a garden will have a distinctive pollen assemblage. Pollen evidence can also reveal the season in which a particular object picked up the pollen. Pollen has been used to trace activity at mass graves in Bosnia, catch a burglar who brushed against a Hypericum bush during a crime, and has been proposed as an additive for bullets to enable tracking them.As an example of use in investigation of homicides, a dead body may be found in a wood. The clothes may contain pollen that was released after death (the time of death can be determined by forensic entomology). If it is found to be from a place other than where the body was found, this indicates that the body was moved after death.

Forensic profiling

Forensic profiling is the study of trace evidence in order to develop information which can be used by police authorities. This information can be used to identify suspects and convict them in a court of law.

The term "forensic" in this context refers to "information that is used in court as evidence" (Geradts & Sommer 2006, p. 10). The traces originate from criminal or litigious activities themselves. However traces are information that is not strictly dedicated to the court. They may increase knowledge in broader domains linked to security that deal with investigation, intelligence, surveillance, or risk analysis (Geradts & Sommer 2008, p. 26).

Forensic profiling is different from offender profiling, which only refers to the identification of an offender to the psychological profile of a criminal.

In particular, forensic profiling should refer to profiling in the information sciences sense, i.e., to "The process of 'discovering' correlations between data in data bases that can be used to identify and represent a human or nonhuman subject (individual or group), and/or the application of profiles (sets of correlated data) to individuate and represent a subject or to identify a subject as a member of a group or category" (Geradts & Sommer 2006, p. 41).

Forensic video analysis

Forensic video analysis is the scientific examination, comparison and/or evaluation of video in legal matters. This definition is attributed to American Academy of Forensic Science. It is also the preferred definition by LEVA. LEVA is the most recognized trainer for military and law enforcement agencies seeking to become certified in video forensics.


Fractography is the study of the fracture surfaces of materials. Fractographic methods are routinely used to determine the cause of failure in engineering structures, especially in product failure and the practice of forensic engineering or failure analysis. In material science research, fractography is used to develop and evaluate theoretical models of crack growth behavior.

One of the aims of fractographic examination is to determine the cause of failure by studying the characteristics of a fractured surface. Different types of crack growth (e.g. fatigue, stress corrosion cracking, hydrogen embrittlement) produce characteristic features on the surface, which can be used to help identify the failure mode. The overall pattern of cracking can be more important than a single crack, however, especially in the case of brittle materials like ceramics and glasses.

Medical jurisprudence

Medical jurisprudence or legal medicine is the branch of science and medicine involving the study and application of scientific and medical knowledge to legal problems, such as inquests, and in the field of law. As modern medicine is a legal creation, regulated by the state, and medicolegal cases involving death, rape, paternity, etc. require a medical practitioner to produce evidence and appear as an expert witness, these two fields have traditionally been interdependent.Forensic medicine, which includes forensic pathology, is a narrower frontline field which involves the collection, documentation, analysis and presentation of objective information (medical evidence) for use in the legal system.

Palm print

A palm print refers to an image acquired of the palm region of the hand. It can be either an online image (i.e. taken by a scanner or CCD) or offline image where the image is taken with ink and paper.The palm itself consists of principal lines, wrinkles (secondary lines), and epidermal ridges. It differs to a fingerprint in that it also contains other information such as texture, indents and marks which can be used when comparing one palm to another.

Palm prints can be used for criminal, forensic, or commercial applications. Palm prints, typically from the butt of the palm, are often found at crime scenes as the result of the offender's gloves slipping during the commission of the crime, and thus exposing part of the unprotected hand.

Perry Mason syndrome

The Perry Mason syndrome is the manner in which the television crime drama Perry Mason (1957–1966) may have affected perceptions of the United States legal system among defendants and jurors.

Pollen calendar

A pollen calendar is used to show the peak pollen times for different types of plant pollen, which causes allergic reactions in certain people.

Skid mark

A skid mark is the visible mark left by any solid which moves against another, and is an important aspect of trace evidence analysis in forensic science and forensic engineering. Skid marks caused by tires on roads occur when a vehicle wheel stops rolling and slides or spins on the surface of the road. Skid marks can be analyzed to find the maximum and minimum vehicle speed prior to an impact or incident. Skidding can also occur on black ice or diesel deposits on the road and may not leave a mark at all.

Trace evidence

Trace evidence is created when objects make contact. The material is often transferred by heat or induced by contact friction.

The importance of trace evidence in criminal investigations was shown by Dr. Edmond Locard in the early 20th Century. Since then, forensic scientists use trace evidence to reconstruct crimes and to describe the people, places, and things involved in them. Studies of homicides published in the forensic science literature show how trace evidence is used to solve crimes. Trace evidence is important in accident investigation, where the movement of one part against another will often leave a tell-tale mark. Such analysis is of great use in forensic engineering.

History of geology
Сomposition and structure
Historical geology


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