pISSN 0705-3797 eISSN 2586-1298
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Episodes 2017; 40(2): 157-165

Published online June 1, 2017


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Soil organic characterisation in forensic case work

Lorna Dawson*

The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, Scotland, UK; Treasurer, International Union of Geological Sciences, Initiative on Forensic Geology (IUGS-IFG); *Corresponding author, E-mail: Lorna.Dawson@hutton.ac.uk

Correspondence to:*E-mail: Lorna.Dawson@hutton.ac.uk

Received: December 1, 2016; Revised: March 17, 2017; Accepted: March 17, 2017

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Soils are composed of natural inorganic and organic (both natural plant and animal and also man-made) components. The organic soil profile is complex, and there is a range of analytical methods available; however, the organic characteristics strongly complement that of the soil inorganic profile characteristics to provide a complete soil analytical profile, allowing detailed comparison and evaluation of soil recovered from questioned items with soil at a crime scene and to also provide clues in crime reconstruction and in search operations. Organic profiles can provide information about a range of soil forming features such as the vegetation present, land use past and present, altitude, etc., as well as providing information about nearness to industry and roads, tracks and rail networks and infrastructure. Biomarkers which remain in soil as a result of body decomposition can also be analysed and used in search and to help locate human remains.