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Soil forensics

Photograph of soil forensic samples being collected (courtesy Lorna Dawson)
Soil has been used in several high profile cases in the past in the UK, both for intelligence for search and as evidence in court.

Professor Lorna Dawson leads a team of experts in soil, mineralogy, organic chemistry, plant identification (morphology, DNA), organisms (diatoms, fungi, bacteria) and molecular biology, along with geographers and statisticians to provide a range of complementary characterisations dependent on the individual case question. Prof. Dawson leads this forensic research and analysis, providing unparalleled experience in the analysis and characterisation of soils, rocks, plants, waters and other ecological/environmental components, as well as scene and expert witness experience.

A combination of both inorganic (XRD, FTIR, XRF, ICP) and organic (GC, GC-MS, FTIR,spectral colour, VOC) analysis techniques are used to compare samples and to provide discrimination of sample characteristics, coupled with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) expertise and soils data. Such information has been used as intelligence, crime reconstruction and as part of search operations across the world. Professor Lorna Dawson is a trained Expert Witness and has presented evidence in court at several high profile cases in the UK, including the State of Western Australia vs Rayney. Prof. Dawson provides reports and statements for both civil and criminal case work. She has contributed as an Expert Witness in several high profile cases such as State of Western Australia vs. Rayney, Australia and HM Advocate vs Sinclair, Scotland. She has acted as Lead Scientist to Police Scotland, various police forces in the UK and through various forensic service providers such as Alecto Forensics, Cellmark and the FSS (Lead Soil Scientist on the Natural Justice team) and LGC.

For case enquiries please contact Professor Lorna Dawson, or phone 07815 178093.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.