Module Identifier EA32710  
Academic Year 2004/2005  
Co-ordinator Dr Nicholas J G Pearce  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Dr Debra J Croft  
Pre-Requisite No specific pre-requisites but students are recommended to have taken a level 2 statistics/data analysis module and a level 2 analytical lab module  
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:

Brief description

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' -case examples.
  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 materials (particularly rocks and soil) to be examined.
  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 - case examples.
  10. Group presentations.
  11. Review.
  12. Revision.

Reading Lists

K. Pye and D.J. Croft (2004) Forensic Geoscience: Principles, Techniques and Applications Geological Society, London
S. A. Schumm (1998) To interpret the earth: ten ways to be wrong Cambridge University Press
R.C Murray (2004) Evidence from the Earth - forensic geology & criminal investigation Mountain Press
Peter White (Editor) (2004) Crime scene to court : the essentials of forensic science 2nd ed.. Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge
Alan Wild (1993) Soils and the environment : an introduction Cambridge University Press
R.C.O. Gill (1997) Modern analytical geochemistry Longman
J.C. Davis (1986) Statistics and data analysis in geology Wiley
M. J. Singer, D. N. Munns (1996) Soils : an introduction Prentice Hall (or later version)
B. Robertson and G. A. Vignaux (1995) Interpreting evidence : evaluating forensic science in the courtroom Wiley
G Shuirman, J.E. Slosson (1992) Forensic engineering : environmental case histories for civil engineers and geologists Academic Press

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


This module is at CQFW Level 6