Making the case: Forensic entomology case studies

Wednesday, November 19, 2014: 4:53 PM
Portland Ballroom 255 (Oregon Convention Center)
Nancy Miorelli , Department of Entomology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Forensic entomology is field that utilizes knowledge of insect taxonomy, physiology, and ecology to solve crimes and settle legal matters. A class in forensic entomology has been offered at the University of Georgia for the past three fall semesters and provides students with a unique opportunity to experience the responsibilities of a forensic entomologist. This course was designed using active learning strategies since they have been shown to enhance student understanding of the material. Additionally, students enjoy participating in active learning activities and gain a sense of accomplishment upon completion. In the forensic entomology class, pairs of students were given a month-long case study in which they used the skills acquired throughout the semester to solve their cases. The case studies required students to identify forensically important insects to genus, think critically about given scenarios, organize and analyze large sets of data, and understand and dissect scientific literature to solve their case. Each case study was designed to have a trick to make sure the students could work through complicated problems they might experience in the field.  Once the students solved their cases, the project culminated with a mock trial in which the students wrote a standard expert witness report and presented their case to practice various forms of presentations and scientific communication. Overall, the students preferred this test over traditional testing and thought it better prepared them and helped them understand the field of forensic entomology.