The role of plants, fungi and algae in environmental forensics Speaker: Dr Mark Spencer

Date: 20/05/19

Time: 6pm

Venue: The Gordon Museum of Pathology, King's College London


Botanists have been working on crime scenes since at least the 1920s. Today, the botanical sciences have the potential to play a key role in some criminal investigations. Advances in molecular biology, especially those relating to non-human DNA, mean that investigators should be more able to use environmental trace evidence during a investigation. However, there are still significant barriers, such as cost, to its use in court. Additionally, more ‘traditional’ approaches such as vegetation fragment identification, are still valuable tools. Unsurprisingly, the current challenges facing the UK forensics sector are evident in environmental forensics. This talk, by forensic botanist Mark Spencer, will provide an overview of how botany can be applied in the criminal environment, explore more personal observations on the strengths and weaknesses of crime scene management and suggest some options for the future. 

Mark Spencer Mark has been active as a UK botanist for over 30 years. During that time he spent 13 years at the Natural History Museum, London. While at the museum, Mark received his first forensic botany enquiry and has since been working the sector for a decade. He is now an independent consultant forensic botanist with casework experience covering murder/ manslaughter, suicide, violent assaults, burglary, arson and counter-terrorism.

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BAFS welcomes applications for Membership from professionals with qualifications in medicine, science, or the law who have contributed, or are likely to contribute, to the application and practice of the Forensic Sciences. Applicants from within these disciplines who are interested, but lack experience, may be offered Associate Membership.