Tuesday 30 August 2011

Busman's holiday reading

I have just come back from a very lovely, relaxing holiday. Thanks to the general quiet and lack of other things to do but chill, I polished off two books. And what were my books of choice? Why, Kathy Reichs' latest offerings, of course! I read 206 Bones and Spider Bones - both classics in KR's inimitable style. 206 Bones had a poorly disguised agenda, which is actually quite close to my heart. In it, Tempe was plagued by office politics and people with few qualifications attempting to do her job. This is, unfortunately, rife in the world of Forensic Anthropology, where universities are churning out keen eager graduates, desperate to make a mark for themselves in the field. This leads to awful rivalry, back-stabbing and high levels of competition - more so than in almost any other scientific discipline, it seems. KR's suggestion, and it is very necessary, is that all people who want to be FAs need to be competency-tested. In the USA, there is a great system - the rigorous ABFA exams. In the UK, such tests don't yet exist. Hopefully, the newly formed BAFA will address this problem, but the road is long and bumpy, and fraught with controversy.
With hindsight, perhaps my books weren't the best choice for a holiday where thoughts about work were banned!

Friday 5 August 2011

What is this bone?

We at the Centre for Forensic Anthropology Research at Cranfield University have just launched the What is this bone? service, where anyone can send us a good digital picture of any bone or bones they would like to be identified. We will try our best (as long as the quality of the photograph is good enough) to provide information about what type of bone it is, whether it is animal or human, juvenile or adult, archaeological or forensic, and any other information we can. Go on, test us!

Tuesday 2 August 2011

More pig experiments

I'm getting excited about a new round of decomposition experiments I am about to start. This time, we're doing a long-term study looking at how the conductivity of the soil changes with time after burial, to use the nutrient content of the soil and its conductivity to determine how long the body has been buried. I am just trying to organise the logistics at the moment, which includes strimming the Forensic Fieldwork Facility of all the weeds that have grown up! Don't worry, I will keep you informed...