Under the Microscope with ISHI Student Ambassador Olivia McCarter

Olivia McCarter is an Anthropology Major with a focus in Biological Anthropology at the University of South Alabama and will be representing ISHI as a Student Ambassador this year. Olivia has been heavily involved in forensic genetic genealogy and will be presenting a scientific poster on infanticide (killings of children under the age of four) and how forensic genetic genealogy is an important factor of giving them their identities back and arresting the individual(s) who ended their short lives this year at ISHI 32.


We caught up with Olivia and asked her to tell us a little more about herself, including how she became interested in forensic science, what she plans to do after she graduates, and what she’s most looking forward to at ISHI this year.



Olivia, thank you for talking with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about how you become interested in forensic science?

I got interested in forensic science as a child after watching TV shows about forensics and decided that’s what I wanted to do. I got really interested in forensic genetic genealogy in my senior year of high school after I saw what Parabon and the DNA Doe Project were doing with cold cases all over North America. I wanted to be just like them.


Can you describe your area of interest for our readers?

I attend the University of South Alabama for forensic anthropology. I want to work with law enforcement to identify skeletal remains. I already do that since I am a forensic genealogist but also being a forensic anthropologist would make me a double threat against the 40,000 unidentified remains in the United States. I want to send as many people back home to their families as possible.



Olivia McCarter with fellow genetic genealogist, Tanner Preston Sousley, at the grave of a case they both worked on—Alisha Ann Heinrich.



What are you most looking forward to at ISHI this September?

I am really excited to meet other people in the forensic science field and attend as many workshops as I can.


What are you hoping to do after college?

I am currently getting my Bachelor’s degree right now so after I graduate from the University of South Alabama, I’d like to go to graduate school to get my Master’s degree in forensic anthropology.


Do you have any advice for others looking to get into forensics?

You need to network! Meet some people who will help you along your way.


Since we’ll be at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort this year, which Disney character is your favorite or do you relate to most? Why?

I guess I relate most to Sleepy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I am known for falling asleep with my camera on during Zoom calls when I am supposed to be working on genealogy.


Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, I would like to share what case we will be working on next! In 1968, female skeletal remains were found in a ditch in Eaton, Ohio. She was buried shortly after, although she was still unidentified. In 2019, Detective Adam Turner from the Shelby, OH Police Department had this Jane Doe exhumed in his quest to find the still-missing Mary Jane Croft Vangilder, who went missing in 1945. We will be working on the Jane Doe, now nicknamed “Preble County Penny” to find out her identity. Whether or not she is Mary Jane Croft Vangilder, Preble County Penny will not be unidentified for longer and will be sent home to her family! Detective Turner is a wonderful example of how law enforcement should treat missing person and unidentified remains cases.


Detective Adam Turner looking over newspapers about “Preble County Penny”



Olivia, thank you for letting us get to know you a little better! Be sure to follow Olivia on INSTAGRAM or TWITTER or connect with her on LINKEDIN.