This Week in Forensic Science

No one has hours to scour the papers to keep up with the latest news, so we’ve curated the top news stories in the field of Forensic Science for this week. Here’s what you need to know to get out the door!




COVID-19 Could Spark ‘Digital Justice’ Transformation in Court System (Forensic – 5/8/2020)

NIST Helps Expand Genome Sequencing of Marine Mammals (Los Alamos Daily Post – 5/8/2020)

  • Researchers will soon have access to the full genomic sequences for 23 marine mammal species preserved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), thanks to an ongoing collaboration between NIST and a scientific consortium called the DNA Zoo.


Lockdown Slows Wildlife Forensics (Mongabay – 5/11/2020)

  • The COVID-19 associated lockdown has slowed wildlife forensic work, delaying wildlife crime investigations.
  • Scientists are working through obstructions such as delayed dispatch/reception of samples, transport of essential chemicals, and processing samples. There is also the possibility of a fund crunch.
  • In a post-COVID-19 scenario, scientists stress on more vigilance on personnel safety and collection, storage/packaging, and transport of samples.

Colorado Court Rules STRmix is ‘Relevant and Reliable’ Practice for Interpreting Likelihood Ratios (Forensic – 5/4/2020)

    • The Colorado District Court for Eagle County has ruled that STRmix– sophisticated forensic software used to resolve mixed DNA profiles previously thought to be too complex to interpret– “is a relevant and reasonably reliable practice for interpreting likelihood ratios under 1,000 with low quality samples.”



Pennsylvania State Has Reduced its Rape Kit Backlog to 94 (Forensic – 5/11/2020)

  • “While important progress is being made, I’m concerned that nearly 100 victims of sexual assault are still waiting for their evidence kits to even be sent to a lab,” said Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale during a press conference last week. “These brave victims underwent grueling physical exams not only for the sake of their own cases, but also to potentially help protect others from being assaulted.”

    The 94-kit backlog is a 62 percent decrease compared with the end of 2018, and a 90 percent decrease compared with the end of 2017.



Signature Science Becomes First Private Laboratory to Implement STACS® Casework (Signature Science – 5/11/2020)

  • Signature Science’s casework laboratory joins public DNA crime laboratories across the country in implementing the intuitive laboratory information management system.



Canada: DNA Discovery Lends Weight to First Nations Ancestral Story (The Guardian – 5/10/2020)

  • The last of Newfoundland’s Beothuk was thought to have died in 1829 but new research indicates the bloodline did not die out – as Mi’kmaq tradition has always maintained


Two New Forensic DNA Standards Added to the OSAC Registry (NIST – 5/12/2020)

  • National forensic science organization approves standards for interpreting DNA mixtures.



Genetic Genealogy Technique Can Separate Mixtures (Forensic – 5/13/2020)

  • Using whole genome sequencing, Fitzpatrick and her team sequenced the DNA mixture, then subtracted out the sequence created from the DNA of the victim. The result was a sequence for the suspect, which they ran through Identifinders’ bioinformatics pipeline to create autosomal SNP data for just the suspect. Fitzpatrick uploaded that data to GEDmatch, worked the genealogy and received a match for 67-year-old James Zastawnik, who police promptly arrested for murder.



Your DNA on Ancestry Sites: What Could it be Used for in the Future? ( – 5/14/2020)

  • What are the implications of a tiny scrap of our DNA being added to government databases, and possibly being used against us in a court?