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The Development and Application of a Diatom-Based Quantitative Reconstruction Technique in Forensic Science

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Diatoms are a group of unicellular algae that have been recorded and classified for over 200 years and have been used in a range of applications in forensic science. We have developed a quantitative diatom-based reconstruction technique to confirm drowning as a cause of death and localize the site of drowning in two recent, high-profile, case studies. In both case studies we collected diatom samples from the local and/or regional area to act as a control in the examination of diatom assemblages associated with lungs and clothing. In Case Study 1 the modern analog technique suggested that all lung and clothing samples have statistically significant similarities to control samples from shallow water habitats. In Case Study 2, the analog matching suggested that the majority of lung samples show a statistically significant relationship to samples from a pond, indicating that this was the drowning medium.

Keywords: diatoms; drowning; forensic science; quantitative reconstruction technique

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Sea Level Research Laboratory, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6316. 2: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN, UK. 3: Department of Geography, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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