Job of the day: forensic entomologist
The other day, just in time for Halloween, Boston.com ran a feature on 10 Scary and Creepy Jobs.
Not all of the scary/creepy jobs were directly death related. But a few of them were.
Like road kill removal specialist, which I personally do not believe is an actual job title. I personally believe this task is actually carried out by a DPW guy with a shovel. Then again, road kill’s not all the big a deal in cities, if you factor out squashed rats, squirrels, and pigeons.
Cryonics technician is admittedly rare, but as long as there are folks like Ted Williams who just can’t seem to let go, there will no doubt be some demand for professionals who’ll turn your corpus into a popsicle so that when “the cure” is found, you can be reanimated. (Actually, Ted’s a bad example, because it’s just his head that’s frozen, I guess so that the somewhat taciturn Teddy Ballgame can come back as a Talking Head.)
Then there are forensic entomologists, folks who “look for clues in murder victims by investigating what lives inside cadavers -- maggots, flies, and other creepy crawlers that have taken hold since the person's death.”
Now here was a job I wanted to learn a tad bit more about. And fortunately, I could do so at Forensic-Entomology.com. There I learned that they don’t call them carrion beetles for nothing.
Forensic entomologists are commonly called upon to determine the postmortem interval or "time since death" in homicide investigations. More specifically, the forensic entomologist estimates a portion of the postmortem interval based on the age of the insect present. This entomological based estimation is most commonly called the "Time Since Colonization".
They may also be able to unearth details about whether a body has been moved, based on whether the colonizing insects are shade lovers or sun worshipers, etc. Not to mention that they can extract human DNA from an insect that’s been supping at the human trough. The mosquito bite could turn out to more than an itchy welt – it just might place you a the quote unquote scene of the crime.
Forensic entomologists also help suss out “circumstances of abuse”. Who knew that some “parents intentionally use wasps and bees to sting their children as a form of punishment"? And, of course, abuse may mean that the victims are kept in squalor, attracting flies. While it wasn’t a case of abuse – other than self-abuse - I learned that this could occur the summer in college when I worked as an admitting clerk in the walk-in clinic at Worcester City Hospital. One day, a middle-aged woman came in with maggots infesting her head. It seems that she’d passed out drunk and whacked her head. When she finally made her way, more or less, out of her stupor, the flies had done their colonizing.
And did you know that bees and wasps are a major cause of single-occupant car crashes? You do now. (Pink Slip is such a font of eLearning, no?)
By the way, you don’t have to be board certified to be a card-carrying forensic entomologist. For $25, you can order a set of “Forensic Insect Field Identification Cards,” that can help investigators that lack specialized training pick up on crime scene clues they might otherwise miss.
By the way, those flecks of blood on the wall might not be blood spatter. They could very well be cockroach tracks.
If this has got you jones-ing for some CSI training, you’re in luck. There’s an Animal Crime Scene Workshop coming up at the University of Florida in a few weeks. For $375,
Students will get hands-on experience in the excavation of a gravesite and the exhumation of buried remains. Emphasis will be placed on the collection of associated physical evidence from the crime scene. The proper collection techniques will be demonstrated and students will be expected to implement those techniques throughout the excavation process.
Keep Calm. Carrion.
Since one thing inevitably leads to another, reading about forensic entomology quite naturally got me thinking about Barry and The Remains, a Boston rock band that was popular when I was in high school. What ever did we do before The Google? Sure, you could always – somewhere, somehow – “look it up.” But it’s highly unlikely that I would have been able to easily figure out that Barry of The Remains became Barry of Barry and Holly Tashian, the folk duo.
Come Thanksgiving, I’ll have to mosey around the ‘net and see if I can find out what happened to Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims…