Tuesday 31 May 2016

Hungarian hijinks!

Over these last few days, I have been having a wonderful time in the incredibly beautiful and hospitable country of Hungary. I was honoured to be invited to speak at two conferences, one in Budapest, and one in Pecs, last week. The first was the European Association of Forensic Entomology conference in Budapest, which is very well respected and was well attended. I was delighted to see my Huddersfield colleague Dr Stefano Vanin, and see old friends such as Dr Martin Hall from the Natural History Museum. I flew into Budapest on Thursday, just in time to give a presentation about the cadaver dog scenting research we have done at the Forensic Anthropology Research Group about how identification of the gases of decomposition can aid the training of cadaver/human remains detection dogs.
After a delightful evening sampling Hungarian food and beer, and sightseeing (rather quickly, from a car), I traveled the next day to the leafy, bright University town of Pecs.

Budapest looking lovely at night
Here, hosted by Dr Orsolya Horvath, a lawyer and PhD researcher exploring identification of criminals using scent detection by dogs, I attended the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Conference at the University of Pecs. The University of Pecs is celebrating its 650th year next year, and is the oldest university in Hungary. The halls are lined with oil paintings of previous professors, and the rooms were clad in dark wood, giving it a very formal, ostentatious air. I certainly felt extremely privileged to be speaking there. Mine was the third plenary lecture of the conference, given on the Saturday evening to a packed lecture theatre. I spoke about our research into improving the training and validity of cadaver dog evidence, but also about the need for a Human Taphonomy Facility (HTF) in Europe.

Giving my plenary lecture
During my time in Hungary, I met many forensic researchers and police officers from the national Police Institute. All were united in their appreciation of the potential scope of an HTF in Europe, and possibly Hungary. I was excited about the enthusiasm, vision and high scientific standards I encountered.

I was also particularly excited to meet a scent identification dog of the future, Orsolya's 4 month old bloodhound puppy, Monroe. Orsolya, a trained dog handler, is planning to train her up to be a working scent identification/human remains detection dog. Here's a picture of Monroe, who was simply gorgeous!

Orsolya starting Monroe's training     
Monroe the bloodhound

I had a wonderful time in Hungary, where I met some really inspiring people. I am looking forward to collaborating with them and putting our heads together to make some positive changes in forensic science and scent identification in the near future.

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