Monday, November 18, 2019

STIP Student Ian Morrison Explored the Impact of the Size of Carcasses to the Types of Succeeding Species that are Attracted to it

This summer I participated in the “Ecology Meets Forensic Science Summer Team Impact Project” supervised by Dr. Joris van der Ham. I was initially attracted to this project because of my desire to potentially pursue lab work in the future. This project focused on the application of forensic entomology to both legal and criminal matters. One application for forensic entomology is the use of succession ecology to estimate the age of cadavers (postmortem interval–PMI) by determining the presence and absence of early and late succession species of insects. This project focused on how different sized carcasses impact the succession species that are attracted to the carcass.

A typical week primarily consisted of identifying and sorting the samples of insects that were collected from the carcasses during the first week of the project. The samples were sorted into flies, beetles and wasps, and from there into their respective genus and species.The samples were sorted using microscopes, tweezers and dichotomous keys. The sorted samples were then reviewed by the supervisor for accuracy. After all the samples were sorted, the number of each insects per species present in the sample were counted and compiled in an excel file for data analysis. While I don’t have a desire to continue to a pursue a career in forensic entomology moving forward, this project has taught me a lot about the application of the scientific method and how it can be effectively used in research. Being able to apply the scientific method is very important in scientific fields, especially in the field of forensic science because using the scientific method provides an objective, standardized approach to conducting experiments and, in doing so, improves their results. This improves the confidence the researcher can feel in their results and limits the influence of personal, preconceived notions.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this research project, and I believe it has been beneficial for preparing me for graduate school research as well as for any career that I pursue moving forward .In the forensic science field, having lab skills and lab experience are invaluable and set you apart from other candidates when looking for employment.