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Palynology: its position in the field of forensic science.

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2008-08-27 08:16 AM

Walsh KW, Horrocks M. 2008. Journal of Forensic Sciences 53, 1053-1060.


Here we examine the current state of palynology in the field of forensic science. Forensic palynology is discussed with reference to other forensic disciplines to help understand what is required for its progress. Emerging developments are also discussed.

Pollen and spores potentially deliver excellent trace evidence, fulfilling the requirements relating to the transfer, persistence and detection of such evidence. Palynological evidence can provide very powerful investigative and associative evidence. Despite this, the application of palynology to forensic science has had mixed success. There are many anecdotal stories where pollen evidence has had spectacular successes. But it is extremely under-utilised in most countries because it is labour-intensive and requires considerable expertise and experience, there is a lack of control over sample collection and inadequate resourcing and funding, and its crime solving power is not well known. Palynology has been applied to forensic problems in an unstructured way, resulting in a lack of (i) formalised discussion of the underlying principles, (ii) experimental data, and (iii) objective methods of assessment. As there is renewed questioning of the acceptability of most evidence types in the current legal environment, there is a need for the establishment of palynological evidence through validation-type studies and experimentation, and the implementation of independent proficiency testing.


Forensic science, forensic palynology, pollen and spores, trace evidence.

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