Silent Mass Disasters: Evidence Based Strategies for Implementing New DNA Technologies for Missing Persons Programs Workshop

Thursday September 21st, 2023 // 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Early Registration$200.00
Standard Registration (after July 15)$225.00
Student Registration$125.00

Fee includes lunch and materials.


Every year, 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered in the US, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). National databases like CODIS provide a powerful framework for linking repeat crimes and providing leads to the identity of individuals who have left biological evidence at crime scenes. However, the same database is underutilized to identify unidentified human remains (UHRs); only ~1% of cases are resolved. For minority, native and indigenous peoples, particularly women and girls, the statistics are significantly lower because of a combination of database representation and reporting. Despite the advancements in high resolution next generation sequencing (NGS) capabilities and forensic investigative genetic genealogy (FIGG), the vast majority of missing persons cases do not avail of its benefits. As a result, missing persons programs throughout the United States and beyond have relatively low success rates and do not have a cost-effective and standardized approach to address this “silent mass disaster”.

This workshop, consisting of academic experts, forensic practitioners and medical examiners, will review established and emerging methods to associate UHRs to families, discuss considerations and practices for expanding database utility for underserved populations and strategies for operationalizing an end-to-end small, large-scale or national programs for the identification of UHRs.


Learning Outcomes:

  • Gain knowledge on innovative strategies for implementing missing persons programs
  • Understand scientific and technical considerations for implementing FIGG in a crime lab or in a coroners office
  • Learn about the challenges associated with cases nationwide as well as with indigenous missing persons investigations and the DNA approaches that can be applied to the identification of indigenous remains
  • Inform laboratories and organizations on how to scale missing persons programs effectively


Intended Audience:

  • Forensic scientists and Criminalists
  • Medical examiners
  • Forensic anthropologists
  • Genetic genealogists
  • Missing persons advocates


Bruce BudowleChair

Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki and Forensic Science Institute, Radford University

Dr. Budowle's current efforts focus on the areas of human forensic identification, microbial forensics, human trafficking, and emerging infectious disease with substantial effort in next generation sequencing. He is a Commissioner on the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

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Frederick Bieber

Faculty of Medicine, Harvard University

Frederick R. Bieber is a member of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard University. His academic work focuses on the laboratory and statistical aspects of DNA-based human identification, with a focus on kinship analysis and its attendant legal, ethical, and policy implications.

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Rachel Oefelein

DNA Labs International (DLI)

Rachel Oefelein is currently the Director of Research and Innovation, Quality Assurance Manager, and a Senior DNA Analyst at DNA Labs International (DLI). Since joining DNA Labs International in 2014, Rachel has testified in eleven Florida counties, five states and U.S. Territories, and five countries as an expert witness for both the prosecution and the defense in misdemeanor and felony trials, as well as Williams, Daubert, and Arthur hearings.

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