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Announcing the Final Examination of Ms. Erin K. Martin for the degree of Master of Arts in Anthropology.
FORENSIC IMPLICATIONS FOR THE DIAGENETIC ALTERATION OF THE STABLE ISOTOPIC COMPOSITION OF PIG RIBS FOLLOWING EXPOSURE TO AQUEOUS CONDITIONS
Erin K. Martin, B.A. University of Central Florida, 2018
This research examines the contribution of stable isotope analysis to the forensic anthropological objective of human identification. Oxygen isotopes, which vary in a predictable manner according to climatological and geographical factors, can be used to determine the region of origin of an unidentified individual following isotopic analysis of human skeletal remains. However, human remains recovered from various environments may be altered by diagenetic processes that occur following deposition. Therefore, the application of stable isotope analysis to the process of human identification by forensic anthropologists will be evaluated by testing the reliability of oxygen isotope values following exposure to various aqueous environments. This research will test potential diagenetic changes in the oxygen isotopic value (δ18O) of Sus scrofa (domestic pig) ribs as a proxy for human remains. These bone samples (n=50) were exposed to different aqueous environments, including distilled water, fresh water, and brackish water, for a period of one, three, and six months, simulating distinct submerged conditions that may be encountered by forensic anthropologists working in Florida. Results of this study suggest that submersion in aqueous environments can significantly alter the isotopic composition of bone over a period of six months. However, the observed shifts in isotopic composition occur over only a 1‰ range, suggesting that oxygen isotopic data derived from bone that was previously submerged in low salinity water for six months or less may be cautiously used to narrow the geographic origin of unidentified individuals in forensic investigations. This study provides a meaningful contribution to forensic literature regarding stable isotope analysis as well as the body of literature regarding early diagenetic processes in aqueous contexts.
Dr. J. Marla Toyne, Chair
Dr. John J. Schultz, Co-chair
Dr. Tosha Dupras
Defense Date: Friday April 9th, 12pm
Virtual Defense Via Zoom