Module Identifier EA32710  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Dr Nicholas J G Pearce  
Semester Semester 2  
Course delivery Lecture   16 Hours  
  Practical   5 Hours  
  Seminars / Tutorials   3 Hours  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours Examination 1 compulsory question and a choice of 1 of 2 others50%
Semester Assessment Research project based on group work, with a short report and presentation (group mark moderated for individual input) 50%
Supplementary Exam2 Hours Examination 1 compulsory question and a choice of 1 of 2 others50%
Supplementary Assessment Submit re-written report on the group work project (to IGES office by day of exam). Marks from presentation to be carried forward.50%

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the forensic science framework operating in the UK and elsewhere, and the requirements of the legal system

2. Describe and evaluate a range of the analytical methods available in the forensic geoscience field

3. Analytically assess data produced from the use of some of the these methods

4. Identify, retrieve and utilise the information and resources available in the forensic science field

5. Critically assess information and summarise for other colleagues.

6. Specify and evaluate the requirements necessary to undertake forensic casework.

7. Analyse and present information to an audience, both individually and by working collaboratively in a team by undertaking a research project.

Brief description

This module is taught by an external lecturer, Dr Debra Croft, who is an independent forensic and geological consultant. Dr Croft can be contacted by e-mail at

A introductory course in the specialism of Forensic Geoscience covering: the legal framework (in the UK and elsewhere), the validity of use of analytical techniques in a forensic context, issues of sampling, evidence handling and storage (including record keeping), the types of cases (criminal and civil) to which earth science techniques are appropriate, evidential sources and materials (particularly rocks and soil), an outline of the available techniques for the chemical, biological and physical characterization of samples, a more in depth look at certain techniques (including geochemistry), statistical analysis of data, reporting and expert witness testimony.


1. Introduction and course outline; casework examples; outline of the legal framework (UK and elsewhere); history of forensic science.
2. Brief outline of the many available techniques for the chemical, biological and physical characterisation of samples; history of forensic geoscience use, the validity of techniques in a forensic context. Outline of the `Daubert Criteria.?
3. Criminal and civil contexts. Serious crime, pollution, engineering failure, building materials science, etc. Discussion of group case project and report.
4. Maps and other published data - use and limitations. Issues of sampling, evidence handling and storage (including record keeping), potential evidential sources and material (particularly rocks and soil).
5. Chemical characterisation (particularly geochemistry). Guided practical work on chemical data sets based on a case scenario.
6. Physical characterisation (colour, particle size, shape, grain counting). Guided practical work.
7. Biological characterisation (diatoms, pollen, spores, plant parts, fossils,etc.) and anthropogenic components (glass, hair, fibres, etc.). Workplace specific materials.Guided practical work.
8. Statistical analysis of data, weight of evidence, reporting and expert witness testimony.
9. Combinations of techniques and data for group case project.
10. Group presentations.
11. Review, revision and the future.

Reading Lists

Alan Wild (1993) Soils and the environment : an introduction Cambridge University Press
M. J. Singer, D. N. Munns ( 1996) Soils : an introduction Prentice Hall
R.C.O. Gill ( 1997) Modern analytical geochemistry Longman
J.C. Davis ( 1986) Statistics and data analysis in geology Wiley
G Shuirman, J.E. Slosson (1992) Forensic engineering : environmental case histories for civil engineers and geologists Academic Press
B. Robertson and G. A. Vignaux (1995) Interpreting evidence : evaluating forensic science in the courtroom Wiley
Peter White (Editor) (1998) Crime scene to court : the essentials of forensic science Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge
S. A. Schumm ( 1998) To interpret the earth: ten ways to be wrong Cambridge University Press
R.C Murray and J.C.F. Tedrow (2004) Evidence from the Earth - forensic geology Mountain Press

R.C. Murray ( 2000) Devil in the Details Geotimes, 45 (2), pp.14-17 or


This module is at CQFW Level 6