The use of geoscience methods for aquatic forensic searches

A. Ruffell, J.K. Pringle, J.P. Cassella, R.M. Morgan, M. Ferguson, V.G. Heaton, C. Hope, J.M. McKinley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
562 Downloads (Pure)


There have been few publications on the forensic search of water and fewer still on the use of geoforensic techniques when exploring aqueous environments. Here we consider what the nature of the aqueous environment is, what the forensic target(s) maybe, update the geoforensic search assets we may use in light of these, and provide a search strategy that includes multiple exploration assets. Some of the good practice involved in terrestrial searches has not been applied to water to-date, water being seen as homogenous and without the complexity of solid ground: this is incorrect and a full desktop study prior to searching, with prioritized areas, is recommended. Much experimental work on the decay of human remains is focused on terrestrial surface deposition or burial, with less known about the nature of this target in water, something which is expanded upon here, in order to deploy the most appropriate geoforensic method in water-based detection. We include case studies where detecting other forensic targets have been searched for; from metal (guns, knives) to those of a non-metallic nature, such as submerged barrels/packages of explosives, drugs, contraband and items that cause environmental pollution. A combination of the consideration of the environment, the target(s), and both modern and traditional search devices, leads to a preliminary aqueous search strategy for forensic targets. With further experimental research and criminal/humanitarian casework, this strategy will continue to evolve and improve our detection of forensic targets.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Early online date26 Apr 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 26 Apr 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'The use of geoscience methods for aquatic forensic searches'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this