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Short Communications - Trace Evidence Symposium 2009 - October 2008

Short Communications - Trace Evidence Symposium 2009 - October 2008

October 2008 - Volume 10 - Number 4


Short Communication

Trace Evidence Symposium 2009

Sandra Koch
Forensic Examiner
Trace Evidence Unit
FBI Laboratory
Quantico, Virginia

Trace Evidence Symposium Steering Committee

In August 2007 the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the FBI Laboratory sponsored an internationally attended symposium on trace evidence. The symposium was very well received in the forensic community, and the proceedings and presentations can be viewed online at http://projects.nfstc.org/trace/.

Because of increased pressures on crime laboratories and the need to continue to provide a forum for research, training, and collaboration, the FBI Laboratory and the NIJ are pleased to announce that another Trace Evidence Symposium will be held August 2–7, 2009, in Clearwater Beach, Florida. The theme of this symposium will be “Interpretation and Reporting Issues.” As last year’s symposium did, this symposium will serve to foster increased awareness among forensic scientists, law enforcement, and the legal communities of the value of trace evidence. It will also serve as an educational forum for trace evidence examiners and managers and as a forum to identify new areas of research and technological needs within the various subdisciplines of trace evidence.

The nature of trace, or “transfer,” evidence is highly variable, and trace evidence can be found at nearly every crime scene. Although trace evidence is often present, its collection, preservation, analysis, and eventual use in court have declined in recent years. Identifying the origin of foreign material found at a crime scene can be powerful evidence; yet in recent years, this type of evidence has been underutilized in the United States and has led some laboratories to reduce their capability to analyze such evidence. The FBI Laboratory and the National Institute of Justice continue to recognize the important impact that trace evidence has on criminal investigations and, ultimately, on the U.S. justice system.

Trace evidence is considered one of the most diverse of the forensic disciplines because it can include the analysis of hair, fiber, paint, glass, soil, and other particulate matter. Some jurisdictions also include in their trace units the analysis of botanical material, arson/fire debris, explosives, and/or impression evidence. A trace evidence examiner frequently is involved in the analysis of a wide variety of evidence and, accordingly, is usually proficient in a variety of techniques and instrumentation such as microscopy, spectroscopy, photography, and other analytical instrumentation. Symposium workshops will be offered to help trace evidence examiners gain further training and updates on the techniques and instrumentation they may use in casework.

Because of the diverse nature of trace evidence, the Trace Evidence Symposium will present a broad range of issues, from technological foundations and research methods to applied practices and policy considerations that impact the field of trace evidence analysis. Papers presented at the symposium may include such topics as unique applications of trace evidence, research findings/results, method validation, interpretation, case studies, bench tips, accreditation, report writing, and legal and/or policy implications. Workshops also will be available for continuing education on issues relevant to the theme of interpretation and report writing, instrumental techniques and analysis, interpretation of evidence, and the use of non-routine techniques, as well as workshops specifically geared to new trace evidence examiners.

Abstracts for papers for presentation at the symposium are being accepted until October 15, 2008, through the Trace Evidence Symposium Website established by NIJ at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/events/welcome.htm. For further details on abstract-submission requirements and the Trace Evidence Symposium, refer to the NIJ Web site.