Applied Research

Geoforensics and Information Management for crime Investigation (GIMI)


Group discussion at the GIMI meeting in May 2006The GIMI network is hosted by the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, coordinated by Professor David Miller and Dr Lorna Dawson.

Network membership is drawn from research centres and universities in the United Kingdom and overseas, notably from Australia and New Zealand, and The National Centre for Policing, and the Police Forensic Science Laboratories.  The network complements an existing research project ‘SoilFit’, also funded by EPSRC.

The project requires an interdisciplinary team of international experts in a breadth of disciplines working with internationally recognised forensic advisors. Each participant has made significant contributions to the relevant science areas involved with geoforensic investigations.

The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute (MI) is the national data centre for land and soil in Scotland, providing data to government agencies in the UK and EU for a range of policy related issues and wide area assessments.

The UK-wide coverage of the developed tools is assured through collaboration with the National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI), at Cranfield University and with the Northern Ireland (NI) Soil Survey Group at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). NSRI houses the extensive soils databases and the soils inventory, spatially referenced, for England and Wales, while DARD houses those available for NI, thus providing both the digital and soil sample resources required to put the project on a trans-UK footing.

  • Colin Aitken, (Professor of Forensic Statistics, University of Edinburgh. and Chairman of the Royal Statistical Society's working group on Statistics and the Law), works on projects EP/C532627/1(P), GR/S63267/02 and GR/S98603/01(P)and is involved in the application of statistics to forensic science and legal reasoning, with an emphasis on Bayesian approaches. He has links with ESR (Auckland, NZ), the Australian Federal Police Forensic Science Service and the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (in particular, the School of Criminal Science at Lausanne, the Institute of Forensic Research at Cracow and the Netherlands Forensic Institute at The Hague) (Aitken et al, 2004).
  • Matt Aitkenhead (MLURI) soil scientist has skills in remote sensing, image analysis and identification of land cover features, with current work including research into novel modeling and pattern identification methods, and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in pattern discrimination and classification (Aitkenhead et al, 2003).
  • Heiko Baltzer (Section Head for Earth Observation at Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)), has expertise in earth observation techniques, ecological risk management, ecological process modelling and knowledge management (Baltzer, 2005). He also has experience in land cover classification using radar and lidar remote sensing.
  • David Beamish (British Geological Survey, BGS), geophysicist, has expertise in many non-invasive geophysical techniques including ground electrical conductivity, ground penetrating radar, magnetics and electrical resistivity methods. Ground penetrating radar has been deployed by the BGS for locating bodies and graves. He also has many years experience interpreting and developing modelling algorithms for geophysical electromagnetic methods.
  • Pat Bellamy (NSRI) is a statistician/systems analyst, and an expert in interrogating and applying large soils datasets in a spatial context (Bellamy et al., 2005). NSRI houses the extensive soils databases and the soils inventory (comprising over 64,000 spatially-referenced archived soil samples) for England and Wales, thus providing both the digital and soil sample resources required to put the project on a trans-UK footing.
  • Mark Brewer will advise on statistical issues, (Senior Statistician, Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS)) who has applied multivariate techniques to related soils data. He has collaborated in developmental work to evaluate analytical techniques, using multivariate statistical methodology (such as principal components analysis and discriminant analysis) in order to manage large amounts of data from different sources, and has also developed novel models for compositional data analysis (Brewer et al., 2005).
  • Colin Campbell (MLURI) a soil microbiologist, has developed a broad range of molecular fingerprinting techniques to both soil and plant material (Saari et al, in press). He has an international reputation, publishing in high impact factor scientific journals and has invented and patented novel soil microbiology techniques (Microresp™), and is a consultant for both national and EU environmental agencies.
  • John Cassella (Staffs)graduated with a degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences and Chemistry in 1988 from Leicester and a Doctorate in Orthopedic Pathology from the University College London in 1993.
  • Lorna Dawson, (MLURI), works on soil science and soil-plant interactions. A trained facilitator, and soil scientist, Lornas is an international network member of the Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science (CAFSS), The British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) and has over 15 years experience as an investigator and project manager on a range of multidisciplinary projects. She has developed methods to discriminate soils based on plant wax markers (Dawson et al, 2004) and is involved in developing the use of soil as evidence in forensic case studies in the UK.
  • Shari Forbes research has focused on the relatively new field of forensic taphonomy and in particular the chemistry associated with decomposition. The goal of her research is to understand the chemical processes that occur during decomposition, particularly in burial environments. The process of decomposition and/or preservation is highly dependent on the surrounding environment and consequently a thorough understanding of the effect of environmental variables on the chemical breakdown of the body is required.
  • Rob Fitzpatrick (Director, Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science, CAFSS) a soil scientist, has undertaken successful forensic case studies across Australia, and internationally, involving mainly criminalistic soil forensics. He has worked with FBI training officers in soil investigating methodologies and is currently chair of the CAFSS.
  • David Hawksworth is Professor of Biosciences in the University of Gloucestershire, a Research Professor in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and a Research Associate at the Natural History Museum London.
  • Stephen Hillier (MLURI) a mineralogist, specialising in X-ray powder diffraction (XRPD) analysis has developed a spray-drying technique for preparing samples prior to XRPD analysis, now used worldwide, and has published a major review article on quantitative analysis by XRPD (Hillier, 2003).
  • Jacqui Horswell, Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), New Zealand, a specialist in environmental health and forensic science, has developed and patented a DNA soil testing kit (Horswell et al, 2002),to be tested on UK soils.
  • Crawford Jordan leads a team of the Northern Ireland (NI) Soil Survey Group at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development(DARDNI) with extensive knowledge of Northern Ireland soils, acquired through recent and on-going soil monitoring programmes (Jordan and Stevens, 2003). The team also has well-developed skills in GIS which has been used to create a soil geochemical atlas for NI (Jordan et al., 2000).
  • Robert Kalin and Wolfram Meier-Augenstein, (Queens, NI) have a proven track record in instrument and method development in particular stable isotope technology (Kalin et al, 2001; Meier-Augenstein and Liu, 2004) are currently working on an EPSRC Platform Grant (GR/T25200/01) on Environmental Forensics and have been involved in casework for the NCPE, the Police Service Northern Ireland and the Gardaí (Republic of Ireland).
  • Parivash Lumsdon (MLURI) is a radar systems engineer, working in environmental applications of remote sensing, land cover parametrisation and ecological association.She has experience in system modeling of radar tracking and detection applications.Her current work is on the characterisation of the land cover using polarimetric interferometric methodology, and polarimetric classification of radar imagery (Lumsdon, 2005).
  • Catriona Macdonald (ESR)
  • Lynne Macdonald (MLURI) is currently a post-doctoral scientist working on the EPSRC funded SoilFit project. She has a background in soil microbial ecology, focusing on the impact of agricultural management on soil microbial diversity and processes in relation to nutrient cycling.
  • Stuart Marsh (BGS) chair of UK's Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society, specialises in geoscience applications and remote sensing for mineral and lithological mapping.He has also pioneered the use of airborne thermal scanners for detecting buried structure such as abandoned mine shafts (Donoghue, 2002).
  • David Miller (MLURI) is a landscape modeller with expertise in the analysis of spatial patterns in the landscape and vegetation change, and the use of visualisation tools for the interpretation of biophysical features (Miller, 2005). He has also been responsible for surveying all of the major peat development resources in Scotland and Cumbria, and has been responsible for various international projects and their management.
  • Robert Morrison (DPRA Inc, San Marcos, CA USA, and Director of The International Society of Environmental Forensics (ISEF)) is a soil physicist and is active in the development of environmental forensic techniques for use in contaminant source identification and age dating in soil and groundwater (Morrison, 2000).
  • Jamie Pringle is a lecturer in Engineering & Environmental Geoscience at Keele University, and specialises in forensic geosearch, for example the use of GPR.
  • Barry Rawlins (BGS), is a soil scientist developing methods for the exploitation of large soil and sediment sample archives and has undertaken research on the application of spatial soil geochemical datasets for forensics (Rawlins and Cave, 2004).
  • Karl Ritz (Chair in Soil Biology) National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI), has expertise in multi-variate profiling of soil systems (Ritz et al., 2004).
  • Allan Robertson (Honorary President of the International Peat Society), provides expertise on the interpretation of peat structure, variation in biophysical characteristics, and links to the research and user communities of peat and peatlands.Sites with different environmental conditions will be used for testing and demonstrating the feasibility of the tools being developed.Permission for access and use of on-site resources has come from a SME (Humax Ltd.) which owns and manages peat resources in Scotland and England, which will contribute access to sites that represent different types of conditions of peat, while permission to use research station facilities (MLURI) that include extensive areas of eroded peat and peaty soils has been granted.
  • Mark Tibbett (Director of the Centre for Land Rehabilitation and Deputy Director of the Centre for Applied Organic Geochemistry at University of Western Australia) has over 15 year experience as a soil scientist and soil microbiologist with a particular interest in forensic taphonomy, teaching this in the UK and Australia (Tibbett, 2004).
  • Willie Towers (MLURI) has used both spatial and non-spatial data to address a large number of agricultural, environmental and ecological issues including environmental protection and habitat restoration and expansion (Towers et al., 2002). These applications rely on establishing robust links between specific soils and vegetation information (held within the database) and more general information on their extent and distribution on maps.
  • Christopher Vane (BGS) is an expert in the analysis and interpretation of natural organic matter in soils and has also used GC-MS to examine evidence for adipocere in burial pits associated with the foot and mouth epidemic of 1967 (Vane and Trick, 2005).
  • Patricia Wiltshire is an ecologist, botanist, and palynologist. She started her research and teaching career at King’s College London. She later worked in environmental reconstruction in archaeology at University College London. Her experience of the difficulty of archaeological palynology meant that she was pre-adapted to work in the forensic context.
  • Ian Woodhouse (University of Edinburgh (UoE)) has experience in the field of microwave remote sensing, polar decomposition methods for visualising SAR data; novel visualisation techniques for the analysis of multi-channel remote sensing data; Digital Elevation Model (DEM), generation and regional scale geomorphology and synergistic remote sensing of vegetation.

Forensic scientific expertise is established through collaboration with recognised forensic experts:

  • Kevin Andrew (Robert Gordon University, RGU), a practising forensic scientist with 21 years experience (both with the Forensic Science Service (FSS) and Grampian Forensic Science Lab) now lectures in forensic science and is a forensic consultant.
  • Joanne Ashworth (NCPE)
  • Dave Barclay (Former Head of Physical Evidence, NCOF (National Crime and Operations faculty) in NCPE) and Sam Harkness, The National Centre for Policing (NCPE), have considerable crime scene search expertise and will ensure forensic relevance to the developments and advise regularly on progress.
  • Mike Baxter (Head of Police Forensic Science Laboratory, Dundee), will provide advice on forensic relevance of evidence collection and data handling procedures.
  • Sue Black (Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology at Dundee University) leads a multidisciplinaryresearch group, covering a wide variety of subjects including the detailed gross, microscopic and biomolecular analysis of adult and juvenile skeletal remains to establish all aspects of biological and personal identity. Current individual research projects are examining the development of a national hard tissue injuries database, the evaluation of skeletal markers of prolonged child abuse, biomechanical analysis of the atlanto-axial complex, sexual dimorphism in the skull base, growth of the pelvic complex, degradation of contact lenses and their value in the identification process and analysis of war crime demography in relation to child homicides. Through an alliance with the Centre for International Forensic Assistance (CIFA) the group services global needs for experienced forensic anthropologists as we have previously done in Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Iraq and other countries of armed conflict.
  • John Hunter (Birmingham University) has much direct experience working on forensic archaeology, particularly in the location of war graves (Watters and Hunter, 2004) and he is actively involved in forensic archaeology cultural resource management.
  • Rob Janaway and Andy Wilson, (University of Bradford) with experience working on forensic applications, are key members of the Forensic Search Advisory Group (to provide the UK police services with advice, technical expertise and support in the location and recovery of buried or hidden remains).
  • Wolfgang Meier-Augenstein (QuB) is an expert advisor registered with The National Centre for Policing Excellence NCPE (Nation Crime & Operations Faculty as then was) on their database of 'forensic' specialists as well as with the Forensic Science Service (FSS). As a result, he has been providing forensic services to several police services (Durham Constabulary, Garda, Lothian & Borders Police, PSNI, Strathclyde Police) as well as to agents of the NCPE predominantly in murder enquiries helping to establish victim identity by determining geographic point of origin (of the victim) but also to detect clandestine burial sites through isotope geochemistry
  • Andrew Morrisson (RGU) has responsibility for the organisation of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research in Forensic Science. He has many years experience as an analytical spectroscopist including developing techniques for trace metal speciation in soils (Morrisson, 1990). He is a board member of the Forensic Institute Academic Research Network (FIRN).
  • Alastair Ruffell, Queens University, NI (Ruffell and Wiltshire, 2004) with considerable forensic experience locating buried armaments in NI, will advise on protocol linkages with ground penetrating radar as a tool for the detection of objects once a likely burial site is located.
  • Jonathan Smith (NCPE) will ensure that any immediately usable network outcome will be available for uptake by end users. Agreement has been obtained from a range of police forces and forensic laboratories for inclusion in this network.