Making Earth Materials Talk

How Earth materials are used as evidence in crime investigations

Professor Rob Fitzpatrick

At the request of the Australian forensic community, the Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science (CAFSS), formed in 2003 after providing critical earth material evidence in a quarry that linked the suspect to the crime scene of a double homicide in Adelaide.

CAFSS have since conducted over 250 forensic investigations for law enforcement offices with the search, location and recovery of earth material samples to solve forensic investigations in “high end” criminalistic cases such counter terrorism, homicide, rape, kidnapping and major environmental pollution.

Rob will use a variety of real, live, operational police and law enforcement cases held in Supreme Courts throughout Australia to illustrate how CAFSS have used various kinds of earth materials at landscape, crime scene and microscopic scale investigations to help solve crime.

Rob will especially highlight how new innovative techniques, methods and strategies have been used to get information, such as from small particles of earth material in clothing, to solve complex forensic investigations.

About the speaker

Professor Rob Fitzpatrick Director, Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science (CAFSS), The University of Adelaide

Rob Fitzpatrick is the founding director in 2001 of the Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science – a national and international facility, which provides focus for development & application in the use of earth materials for forensic purposes. He is Vice Chair of the International Union of Geological Sciences Initiative on Forensic Geology.  Rob has conducted over 250 forensic investigations for law enforcement agencies involving search, location and recovery of earth materials to solve forensic investigations in “high end” criminalistic cases.

He is also Deputy Director of the Acid Sulfate Soils Centre and Adjunct Professor at the University of Adelaide focusing on basic and applied research of acid sulfate soils associated with environmental science, mineral exploration and damage to infrastructures. He is currently an Honorary Fellow in CSIRO Mineral Resources and previously Chief Research Scientist in CSIRO from 2000 to 2011. He is an elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) and Fellow of several global soil science and geological societies. He has received the following awards for outstanding contributions to science: Sir Joseph Verco Medal by the Royal Society of South Australia; The Prescott Medal and Pioneer Lecture Award by Soil Science Australia; Forensic Geology & Forensic Soil Science Award by the IUGS and Pons Medal for outstanding contribution to acid sulfate soil science and practice by the International Union of Soil Sciences: see Pioneering the future of acid sulfate soils | ATSE.

His career has focused on the interface of soil science (pedology), regolith science, mineralogy, biogeochemistry, forensic science, mineral exploration and climate change as applied to:1) Landscape processes, 2) Advanced techniques to characterize, map, monitor and manage soil-regolith systems and 3) Criminal and environmental forensic techniques for earth materials. He has over 50 years of experience in leading major multi-disciplinary research projects and conducted over 500 specialized soil-regolith investigations and surveys, covering a variety of regions worldwide.

Engineers Australia members participating in AGS technical sessions can record attendance on their personal CPD logs. Members should refer to Engineers Australia CPD policy for details on CPD types, requirements and auditing guidelines.