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Transcript of Forensic Botany
Role of a forensic botanist
A forensic botanist is called into a crime scene investigation for several reasons:
to identify plant parts left at a crime scene-a knowledge of plant anatomy and plant ecology can inform investigators about a crime
They may help identify clandestine graves
to identify seeds left behind
to use root and tree rings to help determine time of death
to identify illegal plant substances
to identify pollen grains removed from people, places and objects associated with a crime.
Seeds and leaves are studied by a forensic botanist to determine if a body has been moved or to link plant materials found on a suspect or suspect's belongings. DNA may be recovered from plant specimens to link crime scene materials with an exact tree, for example. This evidence has been repeatedly used to link a suspect to a crime.
Wood from furniture and ladders has also been used to link suspects to crimes.
Diatoms are used to identify time of death for drowning victims- fewer than 20 in the lungs suggest 7-12 days, more than 50 suggest weeks
Tree rings and Plant root growth
Trees and roots are useful for determining elapsed time since death, time since a body was placed at a given location or the season in which a death occurred. Because woody plants and trees grow in annual cycles that vary with environmental conditions, growth rings can be counted to provide the timing of a death. Sometimes tree roots even grow through body parts.
Diatoms are often used to determine time of drowning in aquatic environments as particular diatoms move into lungs at known time intervals
Forensic botanists are called upon to identify illegal substances derived from plants or fungi. Some may indicate a victim has been drugged, some may link the criminal to the scene
Palynologists study pollen and other air particulates. Pollen is very hardy and may link a crime to a region or may be acquired from vacuuming suspects, victims, pets, clothing to help solve questions such as whether a body has been moved, whether a suspect has been near the body.