Since the last blog post, we’ve had spring break and it’s been a week since we’ve come back to school! I wasn’t able to attend lectures during spring break, but I did go to a class before and was able to obtain the content for the classes I missed, so I studied up on my own time. When I first began attending the lectures, we started off by learning about blow flies and the insects themselves. Now, the content has been moving forward towards applying our knowledge. We’re learning more about how forensic entomology can be used for not only estimating time of death, but how it can be used for other purposes like telling if the body has been moved or for drug/toxin identification.
I found it the most interesting that forensic entomology could be used for drug/toxin identification. If there isn’t enough flesh left to test the body for toxins, maggots can be used! Maggots bio-accumulate toxins, which means that by examining the maggots left on the body, traces of drugs or toxins can be found. So if there’s toxins or drugs in a victim’s body, the larvae/maggots feed on the tissue that contains those toxins. While the larvae eats the tissue, it accumulates the toxins from the victims tissue into it’s own body. So by examining the larvae, we can identify the toxins or drugs that were in the body! Who knew that insects could be used for such a wide area of purposes, and not just for estimating time of death?
While I wasn’t able to record a transcript of a conversation with my mentor, as I am listening to a lecture and unfortunately, not having a conversation, I was able to identify different hats I had to put on while I was listening to the lecture! The hats that I feel I put on the most were the white hat, red hat, and black hat.
White hat: While listening to the lectures from my mentor, I’m gaining information. However, while I’m listening to lectures, there’s information I’m gaining and there’s also information that I already have. While listening, sometimes the information I get contradicts the information I already know, or I think I know. For example, when my professor gives examples of when they’ve gone to testify at court, I’m always surprised at the difference of what being a forensic scientist is like in reality, compared to what I knew it to be. So by using the white hat, I’m able to clarify and further understand the reality of being a forensic entomologist.
Red hat: Sometimes I get confused. While listening to the lectures, I’m receiving a lot of information, but the feeling I get from it isn’t always the best. For example, when my mentor mentions case studies and talks about how there isn’t always sufficient information concerning specific species of blow flies, I get frustrated and confused. Forensic entomology is a very useful area that’s helps make it so justice is enacted rightfully and accurately. So why isn’t there a lot of data about different blow flies and their development? If this data is going to be useful in making sure there aren’t wrongful convictions, why aren’t people running around trying to get this information? These were the questions that came along with the frustration that bubbled up within me while I was listening to the lecture. Luckily, the black hat helped clear it up.
Black hat: While listening to the lecture move on, and throughout the next few classes, I realized that there were legitimate reasons why there wasn’t enough data. Firstly, obtaining data isn’t the easiest process. It takes time and effort. Secondly, forensic entomology hasn’t been around for the longest time. While data is being compiled, there still isn’t a lot of data accumulated quite yet. Thirdly, while people are working towards obtaining data, not everyone in the world is a forensic entomologist. Thinking critically using the black hat and combining it with the information that the white hat provided to me, I was able to come to a better understanding about the field of forensic entomology.
Caitlin and I have begun brainstorming ideas for our final In Depth presentation. So far, we’re planning on having 2 mock victims/bodies where we can replicate how they would look and different conditions they would be in. I’m also hoping to have an area where I can talk about forensic entomology and about the different techniques used!