WMU News

Geologist to discuss new tools used for forensics and archaeology

January 29, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- The arsenal of sophisticated geophysical tools now being used in criminal and archeological investigations will be the focus of a talk by a visiting geologist Monday, Feb. 9, at Western Michigan University.

Dr. David C. Nobes, senior lecturer in geophysics at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, will explore the uses of the new technology in a talk titled "'The Light is Better Here': Further Adventures of a Geophysicist in Forensic and Archaeological Studies." The free public presentation is set for 4 p.m. in Room 1118 of Rood Hall.

Nobes will examine how non-invasive, non-destructive tools developed for mapping the subsurface hit the international news when police in Gloucester, England, used them in 1995 for a serial murder investigation. In that case, dubbed the "House of Horrors" by the British press, ground penetrating radar was used to "look" inside walls and beneath the cellar and patio of a home as well as below the soil surface in the yard to locate bodies.

Nobes says radar is not the only tool available for such work and often should not be the tool of choice. He will present a wide range of case histories that will illustrate the uses of near surface geophysical tools, including radar, and examine their strengths and pitfalls in forensic and archaeological studies. His examples will range from the search for the body of a skier lost in an avalanche to the mapping of a Maori family burial site in New Zealand.

Nobes is spending a sabbatical leave this winter semester at WMU conducting research with Dr. George Guthrie, WMU associate professor of geology. His talk is part of the Department of Geology's regular seminar series. For more information about the event, persons should contact Dr. David A. Barnes, associate professor of geology, at (616) 387-5493.

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