Shining a Light on Forensic Anthropology: The Use of Alternative Light Sources (ALS) to Detect Skeletal Remains Underwater
By Catherine Maidment
Supervised by Professor Anna Williams, University of Central Lancashire.
Aquatic searches for human remains are time consuming and expensive with current methods focusing on finding intact cadavers rather than skeletal remains. Alternative light source-based techniques (ALS) are non-destructive and inexpensive, centring on the natural autofluorescence properties of proteins. Bone is thought to respond to ALS excitation due to the natural fluorophore characteristics of bone collagen. Previous MSc research carried out at University of Huddersfield by this author established the foundations of this PhD research, by providing insight into the specific ALS wavelength and coloured filter combination required to visualise bone fluorescence in terrestrial and underwater contexts. This PhD study now focuses on exploring the collagen-fluorescence relationship by optimising photographic analysis, comparing terrestrial and underwater fluorescence, and investigating the impact of taphonomic variables associated with water deposition of skeletal remains. This is achieved through a unique methodology combining bespoke computer software; the Osteo-Fluorescence Calculator (OFC), to measure the fluorescence output, with thermogravimetric analysis to quantify bone collagen. It is the aim of this research to produce a standardised operational protocol to assist investigators and laboratory practitioners when assessing possible bone at crime scenes, mass disaster scenarios, and archaeological investigations, as well as in a laboratory setting.
About the author
Catherine Maidment is a PhD researcher based at the University of Central Lancashire supervised by Professor Anna Williams, and currently works as a lecturer in Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Taphonomy at the University of Huddersfield. Qualifications include a BSc in Death Investigation from Teesside University and a MSc in Forensic Anthropology from the University of Huddersfield, with vocational scientific experience in histology, anatomical pathology and mortuary practice, and cancer research. Key areas of interest including forensic anthropology, forensic taphonomy, death investigation, disaster victim identification, and crime scene science. She has presented her research at conferences in the UK and Internationally, and an article about her research, originally published in the Telegraph online, can be seen HERE.
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