Forensic Science News: 2012-13

News Main Page

Fred Baxendale New Forensic Science Program Director

UNL Forensic Science - Fred Baxendale

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Frederick Baxendale, Professor and Extension Entomologist in the Department of Entomology at UNL, as the new Director of the Forensic Science Degree Program. 

With over 30 years of experience as a professional entomologist, Dr. Baxendale has provided forensic entomology training for the Lincoln Police Department, Lancaster County Sheriff's Office, and the Omaha Regional Office of the FBI, and has participated in the collection and analysis of entomological evidence at death scene investigations. He is Daubert Certified as an Expert Witness in Forensic Entomology.

Dr. Baxendale has published over 350 research and extension articles, secured more than $5 million in competitive and grant-in-aid funding to help support his extension, applied research, and education programs, and has been the recipient of numerous UNL, regional and national awards for excellence in Extension programming.  He has served as an entomology panelist on the popular “Backyard Farmer” television program since 1985.

Welcome Dr. Baxendale!

May 13-16, 2013 - Five UNL Pollen Papers Presented at Brazilian Symposium

UNL Forensic Science - spore

The work of several UNL students, faculty and a visiting scholar was presented at the Brazilian Symposium of Paleobotany and Palynology this week.  The presentations were:

Case Study: Determining Location of Homicide Through Palynology (Nicole Wall, Marina Amaral & Karl Reinhard)

Pollen from Mummified Human Internal Organs from Italy (Nicole Gulseth, Annie Larsen, Kelsey Lynch, Karl Reinhard, Marina Amaral & Dario Piombino-Mascali)

Pollen in Marijuana Pipes (Marina Amaral, Karl Reinhard & Tif Garvin)

Detecting Contraband Tobacco Products through Pollen Analysis: Examining the Pollen Profile for Brazilian Tobacco (Shane Williams, Karl Reinhard & Sergio Chaves)

Evaluation of Forensic Methods for Collecting Pollen (Marina Amaral & Karl Reinhard)

Tif Garvin, Annie Larsen, Kelsey Lynch, Nicole Gulseth and Shane Williams are all past or present UNL Forensic Sciences Students.  Marina Amaral is a Brazilian CSI and was a visiting scholar at UNL last year.  Nicole Wall is a PhD student and a graduate of the Nebraska Wesleyan Forensic Science program.  Karl Reinhard is a Forensic Science Faculty member. More...

April, 2013 - Dr. Robert Bowen Granted Appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professor

UNL Forensic Science - Robert Bowen

On April 30, Robert Bowen, MD, with Physician’s Laboratory in Omaha, NE was granted an appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Forensic Science with UNL’s Forensic Science Degree Program.  Dr. Bowen is a coroner’s physician and is Board Certified in Cytopathology, Clinical Pathology and Anatomical Pathology.

According to Bowen, their coroner’s service performed over seven hundred autopsies last year alone, with individuals ranging in age from newborn to elderly. He will be able to provide students opportunities for internship and shadowing and advise them on research projects related to forensic pathology, taphonomy, medical toxicology, forensic medical histology and death investigation processes.

April, 2013 - Steve Schmidt Granted Courtesy Appointment

UNL Forensic Science - Steve Schmidt

On April 17, Steve Schmidt, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Nebraska, was granted a courtesy appointment as Associate Professor of Forensic Science in the Forensic Science Degree Program. Steve is a welcome addition and will be providing an important legal perspective on forensic science. 

Schmidt has worked with Forensic Science faculty on the FORS 485 Current Issues in Forensic Science class as a resource for the culminating mock trials and plans to continue and expand this collaboration.  His involvement has brought graduating law students to act as prosecutors and defense attorneys to help prepare forensic science students for courtroom testimony.  More…

April 24, 2013 - John Beck and K9 Athena Demonstrate Cadaver Search Dog Techniques

UNL Forensic Science - John Beck and AthenaAs part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, John Beck, cadaver detection dog trainer and handler, brought his K9 Athena to discuss using search dogs to find human remains.

Beck and Athena, an Australian Cattle Dog trained as a cadaver detection dog, demonstrated how she uses her olfactory senses to ascertain the location of human remains. Beck has trained her to use aggressive indications like barking and scratching to identify the location of human remains. 

Beck indicated that Cadaver dogs, unlike many other detector dogs, are usually civilians and their handlers are volunteers.  He uses real human remains to train his dogs and said it usually takes 5 days or less to train a dog with good drive.  More…

April 17, 2013 - Jim Jenkins Presents Forensic Odontology - NE Dental Forensic Team

UNL Forensic Science - Jim Jenkins

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Dr. Jim Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Dentistry at UNMC Dental School, gave a presentation providing information about Forensic Odontology and the work of the Nebraska Dental Forensic Team.

Jenkins indicated that Forensic Odontologists use their knowledge of teeth to make positive identifications and exclusion of individuals based on their dental records.  X-rays are taken postmortem (after death) and compared with antemortem (before death) images to identify distinguishing features in the set.  Jenkins noted that it only takes 3-4 extraordinary features to make a positive ID.

Teeth are a good way to identify bodies, Jenkins says, because they are the hardest substance in the body and can withstand temperatures one would find in fires.  Since there are 160 surfaces to identify someone from a dental exam, there is a lot of room for comparison.  The Dental Forensic Team can also make identifications from bite marks.

April 5, 2013 - Reinhard New Editorial Board Member of Forensic Science Journal

UNL Forensic Science - Karl Reinhard

UNL forensic science professor Karl Reinhard has just been welcomed to the Editorial Board of the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine as an Editorial Board Member.  Reinhard will be refereeing papers submitted for publication and offering advice about various aspects of the editing and production of the journal.

“The Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine provides a forum for the rapid publication of topical articles on legal medicine and all clinical aspects of forensic medicine and related specialities…All aspects of legal medicine, the coronial system and the medical principles of care and forensic assessment of living individuals, whether adult or child, in contact with the judicial system are examined and the Journal has a broad international perspective.” - (4/5/13)

March 27, 2013 - Nebraska State Patrol CSI Give Presentation to FORS 200 Class

UNL Forensic Science - Nebraska State Patrol

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Jeff Ward, Certified Crime Scene Investigator for the Nebraska State Patrol, gave a presentation providing information about the different types of investigations that he does as a CSI.

Ward indicated that his primary focus is evidence collection and preservation, so his work is mostly done at the scene of the crime.  Ward investigates fraud, sexual assaults, attorney general investigations, assaults, death investigations and cold case homicides.  He also goes undercover on occasion.

According to Ward, having an alternate light source and a camera are very important tools for his job.  He sometimes takes over 1,000 pictures at a crime scene.  He also indicated that suspect/victim computers and phones help solve about 50% of his cases.  More…

March, 2013 - Sgt. Larry Barksdale Becomes Full-Time Faculty Member

UNL Forensic Science - Larry Barksdale

Sgt. Larry Barksdale, retired Criminal Investigations Case Manager and Crime Scene Tech Supervisor for the Lincoln Police Department, has now become a full-time Assistant Professor of Practice in Forensic Science. 

Barksdale brings a hands-on teaching style, sharing the knowledge he gained in his 40+ years of experience.  His students will be given a comprehensive education on all aspects of crime scene theory and analysis.  Larry also pursues research projects involving bloodstains as evidence and crime scene analysis and reconstruction. More...

March 13, 2013 - Lancaster County Attorney's Office Presentation of Witness Testimony

UNL Forensic Science - Courtroom

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Pat Condon, Chief Deputy Prosecutor for the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office shared information about being a credible expert witness.

Condon outlined the order of proof and indicated several points to being credible when presenting expert witness testimony including conduct, consistency, knowledge and honesty.

For more information about Pat Condon and the County Attorney’s office click here.

March 6, 2013 - Sgt. John Donahue Presents Electronic Evidence Analysis

UNL Forensic Science - John Donahue

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Sgt. John Donahue, Supervisor of the Electronic Crimes Unit and Crime Scene Techs Unit for the Lincoln Police Department, gave a presentation highlighting the importance of electronic evidence in forensic science.

Donahue noted that the Electronic Crimes Unit specializes in: forensic computer and cell phone examinations, child pornography, investigations support and legal support.  Donahue indicated that almost all investigations include some sort of electronic evidence so having specialists in this area is crucial.

Also a member of the ICAC (State of Nebraska) and Cybercrimes (FBI) task forces, Donahue mentioned how important task forces are for combining resources and knowledge to collaborate on investigations.  He also mentioned some helpful certifications for individuals interested in electronic evidence analysis: CFCE, CCE, and ACE.  More…

March 3, 2013 - Forensic Science Makes a Splash at the Big Red Roadshow

UNL Forensic Science - Big Red Roadshow

Every year, UNL puts on a recruiting event for the Omaha area where all departments are asked to send representatives to host a booth for prospective students to visit.  This year, the Forensic Science Program pulled out all the stops providing fingerprinting and fingerprint analysis, promotional item giveaways, and educational media.

Visitors to the booth were treated to a personal fingerprinting and analysis of their whorls and bifurcations, etc.  Magnifying glasses, pens and brochures were available and Faculty members and students alike were on hand to share information about forensic science and the program specifically.

The Forensic Science Program's booth received much praise for the enthusiasm and knowledge that the student representatives displayed.  Students helping at the event were: Nathaniel Niosco, Alexandra Berringer, Katherine Schwenke, Enrique Ramirez, Carter Collins and Justine LaViolette. More...

Feb. 2013 - Ashley Hall Awarded Lucas Grant by AAFS

UNL Forensic Science - Ashley Hall

Ashley Hall, a UNL Forensic Science faculty member, was just awarded a $2,700 Lucas Grant from the Forensic Sciences Foundation. 

These grants are open to members and affiliates of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and are intended to help scientists with in-depth problem oriented research.

Dr. Hall’s project: “In Situ Targeted Genome Amplification – a Method for the Analysis of LCN and/or Mixed Samples”, involves forensic DNA analysis of single cells.  Her research aims to establish an improved protocol that would remedy low copy number (LCN) DNA and multiple donor sample issues.

Feb. 20, 2013 - Forensic Firearm and Toolmark Analysis Presentation

UNL Forensic Science - bullet clip art

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Kent Weber, a Forensic Firearm and Toolmark Analyst with the Nebraska State Patrol crime lab discussed firearm and toolmark analysis with students.

Kent noted that the work he does includes but is not limited to: firearm function/modification analysis, analysis of bullets, casings, footwear/tires, serial number recovery, toolmark comparison, and shooting reconstruction.

According to Weber, Forensic Firearm and Toolmark Analysts need exceptional visual acuity and spatial perception, attention to detail and an ability to recognize patterns.  The State Patrol analysis team covers over 4,000 cases a year and the types of evidence they analyze varies greatly.  More…

Feb. 13, 2013 - Erin Steward Presents Opportunities for Forensic Science Students

UNL Forensic Science - Erin Steward

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Erin Steward, a 5th-year Forensic Science major gave a presentation highlighting opportunities for students in the Forensic Science Program at UNL.

Erin is a very accomplished student having been a Teaching Assistant, completed an internship with the Lincoln Police Department, taken on a leadership role in the Forensic Science Club and is now finishing up her UCARE project.

Erin shared her experiences, illustrated what undergraduate students can do in the program, and provided information on how students can set up these opportunities.

Erin is working with Larry Barksdale on her UCARE research regarding using root banding as an alternative way to estimate time since death.  She is planning to publish and present her results at a national conference. More...

Feb. 6, 2013 - Fire Investigator Gives Lecture for FORS 200

UNL Forensic Science - Don Gross

As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Donald Gross, Fire Inspector/Investigator/Explosive Technician, gave a presentation about what he does with Forensic Science.

Gross indicated that “Fire is a science” and shared real-world examples of how investigators can make determinations about the source of a fire by analyzing the scientific properties of the evidence left in the wake of a fire.

According to Gross, although with arson it is difficult to prove intent, information such as heat-release rates can inform investigators about several details of the fire and help them draw conclusions about how the fire started and spread. More...

Jan. 31, 2013 - Karl Reinhard Gives Important Testimony in Murder Trial

UNL Forensic Science - Karl Reinhard

Karl Reinhard, Forensic Science faculty member, gave testimony indicating that the human remains that were found in a Valley County pasture belonged to a Caucasian female between the ages of 27 and 35, who was about 5-foot to 5-foot 1-inch tall.

Reinhard was able to determine this through the shape and measurements of the skeleton.  Reinhard indicated that the skeleton was 70 percent complete.

DNA analysis later indicated that the remains belonged to a woman believed to have been murdered, last seen in May 1989. More...

Jan. 30, 2013 - Forensic Anthropology Lecture

UNL Forensic Science - JPAC presentation As part of the FORS 200 - Forensic Seminar guest lecture series, Anthropologists Gregory Fox and Derek Benedix gave a talk outlining their work with the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).

These scientists travel to exotic locales all over the world where they work with teams of military personnel to track down, excavate and identify the remains of American Military Personnel. 

Their lecture provided an overview of what Forensic Anthropologists do and included slides of several digs where human remains were found.

JPAC is currently renovating some laboratory space at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha to house a new base of operations.

Jan. 28, 2013 - Reinhard, Lein and Kumm Featured in National Geographic

UNL Forensic Science - whipworm eggNational Geographic Daily News published an article about Sicilian Mummies and featured the work of Karl Reinhard, (UNL Forensic Science faculty member) and his graduate students Melissa Lein and Kelsey Kumm.

Reinhard, Lein and Kumm have recently conducted a pilot program examining intestines of mummified human remains.  Melissa Lein discovered evidence of milkwort, a plant with medicinal purposes thought to be uncommon in Italy.

In addition, Kelsey Kumm found an infection of whipworms (a fecal-borne parasite), which according to Reinhard, indicated that the individual although being well-to-do, had had interactions with the lower classes. More…

Jan. 20, 2013 - "Blowflies, Beetles and Bad Guys: Ecology and Forensic Science"


Amanda Fujikawa and Christian Elowsky (doctoral students in the School of Natural Resources) presented "Blowflies, Beetles and Bad Guys: Ecology and Forensic Science" for children and families as a part of the Sunday with a Scientist program.

Their presentation at Morrill Hall centered on the importance of blowflies and beetles in regards to their roles in decomposition, ecology and their use in forensic science.

In addition, visitors were provided the chance to view magnified blowflies and beetles through a microscope, and to create an art project using live maggots. More...

Nov. 6, 2012 - Karl Reinhard Wins Book Award

UNL Forensic Science - Karl Reinhard

Karl Reinhard, a faculty member of UNL’s Forensic Science Program, won the natural sciences division of Brazil's most prestigious book awards, the Prêmio Jabuti, or "Tortoise Award."

The winning publication, "Fundamentals of Paleoparasitology", a compilation of essays and research examining the history and impacts of parasitic worms, was the result of a collaboration with Brazilian luminaries Luiz Fernando Ferreira and Aduato Araújo.

Reinhard’s research also contributed to a major research grant awarded by the Brazilian government’s “Science without Borders” program. More...

Sept. 13, 2012 - Amanda Fujikawa Featured in Scientific American

Amanda Fujikawa

Amanda Fujikawa’s graduate research may change the way insects are considered in determining post-mortem intervals.  Her work has shown that insect behavior and morphology may be more complicated than previously believed.

Her findings may significantly impact the field of Forensic Science, and if some of these variables can be further studied and confirmed, post-mortem interval may be determined with more accuracy.

Fujikawa has also demonstrated that adult blowflies can alter the morphology of blood stains at a crime scene and she has identified novel ways of distinguishing blood spatter from bug activity.

Amanda’s contributions have not gone unnoticed and her work has been highlighted in Scientific American.  More…