Maggots helping forensic scientists
Kelly George, a PhD Deakin candidate at Deakin University, is working on a research project that will help investigators better determine the time of death of deceased persons.
When a body remains undiscovered for an extended period of time, the best estimate of the time since death is determined by entomological techniques.
This is done by analysing the insects inhabiting the body and allows entomologists to estimate the minimum post-mortem interval (PMI).
The minimum PMI is classified as the time between colonisation and discovery of remains.
Currently in Victoria, the gap between death and colonisation cannot be approximated due to a lack of data on the colonisation behaviour of forensically important insects.
The development of this technique requires a thorough understanding of the factors that may speed up or delay colonisation by insects, in particular calliphorids (blow flies).
To date, there are very little colonisation data that can be applied to Victorian entomology casework as Victorian weather patterns can be different when compared to other Australian states.
Kelly George’s study has measured the importance of a number of abiotic (non-living chemical and physical factors in the environment which affect ecosystems) factors and the ways in which they interact.
A thorough understanding of these helps entomologists to predict the time interval between death and colonisation.