Environmental and criminal geoforensics: An introduction

Duncan Pirrie*, Alastair Ruffell, Lorna A. Dawson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Many subdisciplines within the Earth Sciences make use of either geophysical instruments to investigate the subsurface environment or use analytical methods to determine the origin, or provenance, of geological materials. These same instruments and analytical methods can be used either directly, or adapted to suit, the acquisition of data that pertain to a wide range of forensic science investigations. Such approaches, as discussed below, are generally not new but, in recent years, there has been a significant resurgence globally in the application of geological and geophysical methods to aid forensic investigations. Traditionally, such methods were used in forensic investigations related to serious criminal cases such as terrorism, murder, abduction and serious sexual assaults, and to a lesser extent in the investigation of cases of fraud and theft. But with increasing concern into the environmental impact of human activity, with the release of contaminants into the atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere, and their potential uptake into the biosphere, there has been an increased amount of environmental legislation. In turn, there has commonly been an increase in the costs associated with the legal discharge or disposal of wastes. Consequently, it is unsurprising that the illegal discharge and disposal of wastes has also increased. Identifying the distribution, impact and source of such waste materials can, in part, be addressed through the application of geological techniques, in much the same way as used traditionally, for example, in the investigation of murder cases. The diversification of the use of geological techniques into the investigation of environmental crime will, potentially, significantly increase the range of investigations in which geologists may be asked to assist but will also lead to a new array of research questions to be addressed, hence the need for this Special Publication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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