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!




DNA to the Rescue: How Researchers are Finding Illegal Shark Fins (Forbes – 5/10/2019)

  • For customs and other agents who inspect traded animal products, it can be hard to identify the animal a certain product came from. That is especially true for sharks, as some experts even have trouble telling species apart. Now, a group of conservationists and researchers funded by Paul G. Allen Philanthropies have developed, tested and launched a rapid DNA testing tool that removes any doubt and allows them to make meaningful on-the-ground decisions.


How Volunteer Sleuths Identified a Hiker and Her Killer After 36 Years (The New York Times – 5/11/2019)

  • What does it actually take to identify a person through genetic genealogy? Wading through infidelities and pornography.


Family of Executed Man Seeks to Have DNA in Case Tested (Daily Memphian – 5/12/2019)

  • April Alley watched as her father was executed by lethal injection in 2006 for raping and murdering a 19-year-old Marine in 1985.

    Now, she is fighting to find out if her father, Sedley Alley, committed the crime. She has petitioned Shelby County Criminal Court to test the DNA evidence in the case. The petition for post-conviction testing of the DNA was filed April 30.




BREAKING: Forensic DNA Evidence Helps to Catch Rapists in Somalia for the First Time in History (The African Exponent – 5/12/2019)

  • It is a big moment in Somalia’s history as a court in Garowe today used forensic DNA evidence to convict three men accused of the rape and murder of 12 year old Aisha Ilyas. This is the first time forensic DNA evidence is being used to land a conviction in Somalia.


CSI Perth: Inside WA’s Top-Secret Crime Fighting Forensic Lab (Brisbane Times – 5/13/2019)

  • It’s the top-secret facility that’s set to become the new epicentre of where some of WA’s most horrendous crimes and cold cases will be solved.


‘Rapid DNA’ Promises to Identify Fake Families at the Border. It Won’t. – Opinion (Washington Post – 5/13/2019)

  • Testing asylum seekers for genetic kinship borrows from racist immigration policies of the past.



The Women who Pioneered the Use of DNA Websites to Unlock Cold Cases (Independent – 5/13/2019)

  • In the hands of an advanced genealogical sleuth, often all that is needed to identify someone from a drop of saliva, blood or semen are the DNA profiles of two third cousins.


Plastic Milk Container, Genealogy Helped Utah Police Crack Church Assault Case (Desert News – 5/13/2019)


The Future of Justice Depends on Fixing the Forensic Science Crisis (CityA.M. – 5/13/2019)

  • It is clear that the UK has incredibly dedicated, passionate and qualified people in the police, forensic labs, courts, and research, who work phenomenally hard to ensure the quality of forensic science. This isn’t about pointing fingers.

    But given how the justice system shapes our society, the stakes are far too high to ignore the crisis.


Inside the Highly-Secure ATF Lab That Solves Massive Local Bombings, Explosions and Fires (CBS Philly 3 – 5/13/2019)

  • Solving crimes by recreating them. At a federal laboratory in Maryland, setting things on fire is all part of the job.


New Doctors’ DNA Ages 6 Times Faster than Normal in First Year (Michigan Health Lab – 5/14/2019)

  • A new study finds that the long work hours of an intern’s first year of medical residency are associated with accelerated cellular aging. It’s the first longitudinal study of people exposed to such prolonged stress.



Man Charged in Son’s Death 20 Years After Remains Found (The Washington Post – 5/14/2019)

  • For years, 10-year-old Robert Adam Whitt’s identity remained a mystery. The case was revived when Orange County Investigator Tim Horne connected with a genetic genealogy consultant and discovered a possible cousin.



DNA is Cracking Mysteries and Cold Cases. But is Genome Sleuthing the ‘Unregulated Wild West’? (USA Today – 5/14/2019)

  • Investigators have been using criminal DNA databases for decades, but commercial genealogy sites like and 23andMe have revolutionized the industry. Now people can make their own genetic material public, and when law enforcement use that information to solve crimes, it can raise serious questions about privacy.



FBI Scientists Studying Wet Vacuum for DNA on Select Surfaces (Forensic Magazine – 5/15/2019)

  • The wet-vacuum method of collecting DNA from challenging surfaces, which has cracked a growing number of cold cases in some states, is being tested by scientists at the Federal Bureau of Investigation laboratory, according to a presentation two weeks ago at the Southern Association of Forensic Scientists annual meeting.



Oldest Scandinavian Human DNA Found in Ancient Chewing Gum  (Phys Org – 5/15/2019)

  • The first humans who settled in Scandinavia more than 10,000 years ago left their DNA behind in ancient chewing gum, masticated lumps made from birch bark pitch. This is shown in a new study conducted at Stockholm University and published in Communications Biology.



New Forensic Technology Examines Fingerprints Once Considered Too Old or Compromised to Analyze (ABC27 – 5/15/2019)

  • A vacuum metal deposition instrument is now in the hands of Cumberland County to better collect fingerprints and DNA. This equipment is only the second of its kind in Pennsylvania and one of 14 in the entire country.