The Development of Chemical and Biological Profiling for the Forensic Provenancing of Norfolk Soils

Bathgate, Hilary (2014) The Development of Chemical and Biological Profiling for the Forensic Provenancing of Norfolk Soils. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Soils are frequently analysed by forensic laboratories by comparing a suspect sample to an especially collected control sample. As yet, they cannot be compared to a central database, unless the area in question has already been identified; with the use databases being highly contested within the field of forensic geosciences. There is a need for a method of soil profiling that allows an unknown sample to be tested and assigned a quantitative likelihood that it originated from a given region. Spatial models can then be created using geographical information systems to house multiple datasets and be used to map soils across geographical areas.
Generally, the more variables available with which to compare items, the greater the certainty a forensic analyst can have when asserting their similarity; this applies to geological materials. Equally, soil profiling methods can be used to exclude soil samples from each other or an area. This research involves a number of chemical and biological profiling methods that have been used to build up a unique signature for soils from different locations across Norfolk. All analyses have been carried out on a single source sample. 87Sr/86Sr ratios have been measured using MC-ICP-MS, and trace element concentrations measured using ICP-MS. The 87Sr/86Sr ratios are significantly different at each of the sample locations; although there is some variation in the replicates collected at each location this variation is smaller than the regional variation. The correlation between the isotope chemistry of the topsoil and the underlying geology is poor, indicating that other sources such as land-use, vegetation cover and additions to the soil contribute to the 87Sr/86Sr. Therefore, trace element concentrations have been used to spatially discriminate samples and to investigate the effect of fertilisers on the elemental composition of the topsoil.
The biological techniques used to aid discrimination are soil DNA analysis using the chloroplast-located matK gene and MALDI-ToF-MS, palynology and the creation of Norfolk vegetation maps showing all of the plant species recorded in the area; each additional independent dataset allows for an increasing signature of each sample to be built up which can be used for assessing similarity or exclusionary purposes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Chemistry
Depositing User: Users 2259 not found.
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2015 10:54
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2015 10:54


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