2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 15
Presentation Time: 5:15 PM


ROEMMEL, Janet S., 3205 Teton Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84109-2332, roemmel@xmission.com

Forensic geology may be the next big potential area of employment for professional geologists. The leap from environmental geology to forensic geology is not far, considering the similar investigative techniques, technologies, and reasoning. The approaches that allowed a geologist trained in the environmental field to provide evidence for liability cases and related soil and groundwater cleanups, also provide a framework to investigate more nefarious criminal or civil cases led by forensic investigators. This emerging area of employment offers a new opportunity to the environmental geologist, who is already familiar with integrity of data collection and analysis; selection of investigative methods; and multiple working hypotheses.

In both environmental and forensic geologic work, the types of data geologists evaluate often are circumstantial or anecdotal, rather than direct. Our conclusions are based on several lines of evidence for which the simplest causal explanation is invoked and tested. Geologists must infer conclusions from limited data sets and must always consider scale, relative position, and timing of relationships.

Examples of the similarities between environmental geology and forensic geology include sample management; chemical analysis; site layout documentation; restriction of site access; use of standard operating procedures, sampling and analysis plans, and quality assurance plans; and obtaining access to a site.

Skills developed by the environmental geologist are directly applicable to forensic work. The cross over will require adequate translation of terminology between the two fields and understanding of standard operating procedures that are typically learned on the job. Still, seasoned environmental geologists can transfer their skills of solving analytical, relational, three-dimensional problems to those associated with solving crimes.