2010 SWFS Meeting Summary

Wildlife Forensics Scientists Meet

120 wildlife forensics scientists from around the world met at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, for the inaugural conference held by the newly formed Society for Wildlife Forensic Science.

The Society for Wildlife Forensic Science's goal is to help develop wildlife forensics into a mature discipline with commonly accepted procedures that will stand up in court. The meeting represented the official creation of the new Society, with the passage of By-Laws, the election of Officers and a Board of Directors, and the adoption of a Code of Ethics and Conduct. The Society for Wildlife Forensic Science now has 104 members.

In addition to talks on standardization, the conference agenda included a presentation by the U.S. Department of Justice on changes in wildlife laws and testifying in court as well as presentations on hair identification, statistics and wildlife, and real-time PCR analysis. Attendees also toured the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Forensics Laboratory.

The next meeting will be in the Spring of 2012 in Vancouver, BC, after which the society will meet every three years.

Workshops from the 2010 SWFS Meeting


Real-time PCR Workshop

Mildad BiƱas, PhD, Sr. Field Applications Scientist, Applied Biosystems, Part of Life Technologies

This workshop is designed to cover basic experimental design and results interpretation for quantitative Real-Time PCR experiments. Course topics include the theory of the 5' Nuclease Assay and the SYBR Green Dye Assay, principles of designing an efficient assay, quantification with a standard curve, results interpretation and discussion.

Statistical Genetics for DNA Identification Workshop

Bruce S. Weir, University of Washington The workshop will be run in four 90-minute sessions, with time for discussion and exercises in each session.

Session 1. Basic Statistical Genetics-Estimation of allele, genotype and profile frequencies; variances of estimates; Confidence intervals; Testing for Hardy-Weinberg and linkage equilibrium. Session 2. Population Structure-Profile and match probabilities; Likelihood ratios for DNA evidence; Estimation of F-statistics; Theta corrections for population structure. Session 3. Relatedness and Parentage-Measures of inbreeding and relatedness; Paternity index; Remains identification; Familial searching. Session 4. Lineage Markers, Rarity of Profiles-Use of Y-STR and mtDNA markers. "Uniqueness"; Match probabilities estimated from databases; Birthday problem.

Testifying in Court and Changes in Wildlife Laws Workshop/Presentation

Robert Anderson, US Department of Justice

The result of every forensic analysis is an opinion regarding one or more characteristics of an item of evidence. The rules and process of offering expert opinion testimony and its underlying evidence in a court of law is much more complicated than portrayed in popular media. Admissibility of expert opinion and evidence is affected by every event in the analytic process, from the first time the evidence is touched, through the writing of lab notes and reports, to the testimony provided in court. This lecture will introduce the forensic expert to the rules of evidence governing the admission of expert testimony, best practices related to chain-of-custody and evidence handling, and tools for giving effective, compelling testimony in court.

Hair Identification Workshop

Instructors: Bonnie C. Yates and Cookie Sims, US Fish & Wildlife Service

The goal of this workshop is to familiarize participants with procedures for sampling, preparing, and examining animal hair using transmitted light microscopy. Activities will include a review of mammalian taxonomy and the types of forensic cases involving animal hair; examination and sampling of pelts; preparation and curation of hair standards and exemplars; use of dichotomous keys to evaluate gross macroscopic characters; use of transmitted light microscopy to examine medullary and cuticular characteristics. Participants will be tested on descriptive terminology, knowledge of the literature, preparation of whole hair mounts and scale impressions, and identification to the family level of a series of mammalian hairs.

1. To recognize important macroscopic features of animal hair such as grade (i.e., relative diameter), shape, and banding patterns.

2. To identify the dorsal guard hairs of ten taxa: dog, cat, mink, bear, seal, rabbit, muskrat, hog, cow, and horse.

3. To be familiar with the vast diversity among non-human animal hair forms stemming from differences in taxonomy, somatic origins, function, and taphonomic effects.

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