Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 3:30 PM
TEACHING CRITICAL OBSERVATION WITH FORENSIC GEOLOGY
The first forensic geology course was initiated at Southern Illinois University during the fall term in 1996 and has been taught every fall term since then. The course is taught in fifteen 3-hour sessions with each one covering a single topic. The topics covered include: rock and mineral characterization; geological (mining) fraud cases; topographic and geological maps; sand; soils; fossils; amber; palynology; coals and carbons; cosmetics, paints, and inks; building materials; man-made environmental disasters (forensic engineering geology); and environmental geochemistry. In addition, evidence collection, courtroom testimony, and ethical issues are covered. Each session starts with descriptions of cases dealing with the topic of the session followed by brief but adequate instruction on that topic with an extensive hands-on laboratory exercise. While the course does introduce the students to many geological concepts and the applications of geology in forensic investigations, the main specific objective is to develop skills of critical observation. This is accomplished in each session by a number of exercises involving the observation, study, and classification of a large variety of geological materials They are followed by detailed simulated forensic investigation exercises that are reviewed and evaluated at the end of the session. Some of these exercises include determining the likely source location of rocks and fossil on geological maps and comparing the composition and texture of unknown sand, soil, rocks, amber and fossils to reference samples. The mineral pigments section which includes the lipstick lab where the optical spectra of various samples of lipstick are compared has proven to be particularly popular with the students.