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Spatial and Temporal Influences on Bacterial Profiling of Forensic Soil Samples

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Bacterial content may be helpful in differentiating forensic soil samples; however, the effectiveness of bacterial profiling depends on several factors, including uniqueness among different habitat types, the level of heterogeneity within a habitat, and changes in bacterial communities over time. To examine these, soils from five diverse habitats were tested over a 1 year period using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) analysis. Soil samples were collected at central locations monthly, and 10 feet in cardinal directions quarterly. Similarity indices were found to be least related among habitats, while the greatest bacterial similarities existed among collection locations within a habitat. Temporally, however, bacterial content varied considerably, and there was substantial overlap in similarity indices among habitats during different parts of the year. Taken together, the results indicate that while bacterial DNA profiling may be useful for forensic soil analysis, certain variables, particularly time, must be considered.
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Keywords: 16S ribosomal RNA gene; bacterial DNA fingerprint; forensic science; terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Forensic Science Program, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824. 2: Forensic Science Program, School of Criminal Justice and Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

Publication date: 01 May 2008

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