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Forensic biology involves applying the knowledge of biology to solve crimes. There is a lot of biological evidence that can be found in a crime scene, such as fingerprints, bodily fluids, bones, hair, insects, and plant materials. This evidence can be crucial in understanding the crime and, therefore, individuals who have a deep knowledge of biology should be involved.
Forensic biologists are experts in dealing with biological evidence. They identify the biological materials in a crime scene that could be useful in the investigation, and proceed to collect and examine it. The evidence can be collected from specific items found in the crime scene such as clothes and weapons, as well as other surfaces. Forensic biologists are required to be very keen in their work because biological evidence is usually vital in an investigation. Valid evidence can be used in the court to pass judgment, and experienced and certified forensic biologists can testify on their findings.
To become a forensic biologist, one needs to enroll in a four-year undergraduate program in forensic biology and can later take further studies to become an expert in the field. A student can also take a general biology course and later specialize in forensic biology at the graduate level. Forensic biologists are trained on how to appropriately identify useful biological material, examine it, store it, and write detailed logs on their findings. They work in both the field and the laboratory. Once they have collected the biological material from a crime scene, they take it to the crime laboratory and analyse it in detail.
Techniques used in Forensic Biology
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the most vital biological evidence that can be found in a crime scene. Biological materials such as blood, saliva, skin and semen found on items and surfaces in a crime scene contain DNA that can be extracted. Samples are collected from the crime scene and taken to the lab for analysis. Most of the time, the samples collected are usually in very small quantities and should, therefore, be handled and used cautiously. When in the lab, the DNA is extracted from the samples and then amplified to increase its quantity and enable its use in multiple tests. Extracted DNA can be useful in many ways, such as identifying human remains and connecting suspects to a crime. Forensic biologists should, therefore, be knowledgeable in the collection of DNA and its analysis.
Mitochondrial DNA Analysis
When nuclear DNA is not available, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be extracted and used in solving crimes. The mitochondria, which are organelles found in the cells, contain a specific type of DNA that is maternally inherited. Its use as evidence began in 1996 when it was found that it can be used in identifying individuals, similar to nuclear DNA. The presence of mtDNA in cells is higher than nuclear DNA and, therefore, even when samples are degraded, it can still be extracted. mtDNA is commonly extracted from samples such as bones, teeth, and hair, which are less prone to damage and can survive for a long time. The use of mtDNA can cause complications in some situations because of its maternal inheritance among family members. It is also possible for an individual to have more than one type of mtDNA, thus it is difficult to analyze it. Forensic biologists should be skilled in extracting and analyzing mtDNA before using it in solving a crime.
Forensic biology is categorized into several disciplines in which an individual can specialize in. These categories depend on the type of biological samples that can be found in a crime scene. They include:
This involves studying the characteristics of bones and using them to derive information on an individual, such as their gender, race, and age. It is usually applied in the cases where the soft tissue has been damaged leaving only skeletal remains. Forensic anthropologists measure the bones and identify other specific characteristics that can provide useful information. It is necessary to study the characteristics of the bones beforehand so as to use the knowledge in investigations. For example, the female pelvis is broader than the male pelvis. This knowledge can be used to determine the sex of skeletal remains found at a crime scene.
Microorganisms can be found in every environment and, therefore, they can play an important role in crime solving. For example, the microorganisms found on a body can be used to determine the time and cause of death, as well as the location in which the crime occurred. Forensic microbiology is especially applicable when dealing with bio-weapons. Criminals can use harmful microorganisms as weapons. Scientists examine the microorganisms to determine their source, thus solving the crime.
In this study, the toxins that can lead to poisoning and even death are analyzed to determine whether they were involved in a crime. This is mostly applied in post-mortem analysis when investigating the cause of death of an individual. There are many toxic substances that can be used to carry out crimes. The fields of toxicology, pharmacology and analytical chemistry are applied in the analysis to come up with conclusions that can be used as evidence.
This is the application of insect studies in criminal investigations. The insects found at a crime scene can be useful in providing information such as the time of death and the location of the crime. The developmental stages of insects are especially beneficial in determining the time of death. Decomposing cadavers usually have insects that are at different stages of development and invasion, thus indicating the period within which the individual has been dead.
Plant materials found in a crime scene can give clues that can be used in solving a crime. They can provide information on the time of the crime or the location. For example, finding a leaf at a crime scene would indicate that the specific area where that plant grows could provide more information on the crime. Relevant plant materials can, therefore, be collected and examined for use as evidence.
Forensic biology is a very important field of study that plays a crucial role in criminal investigations. The knowledge of biology is vital in criminal investigations because biological evidence is used to draw important conclusions. The work of forensic biologists is, therefore, very beneficial and crucial. In case you experience any difficulty in this field of study, you can get online biology homework help from our dedicated professionals who are always ready to help you improve your grades.