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Centre for the Forensic Sciences Blog



MORPH2016: Measuring our models

By Sian E Smith, on 5 July 2016


Morphometric Applications in Archaeology and Anthropology

Our friends in the Institute of Archaeology (IOA) hosted a conference last month- Morph2016 : Morphometric Applications in Archaeology and Anthropology

Geometric morphometrics (GMM) is the quantitative measurement of morphological shape using geometric co-ordinates, rather than just measurements. Using CAD (computer assisted design) methods the geometry of an object can be captured with outline and landmark data, and 3D surface representations. Morphometric-based methods are increasingly used in diverse areas such as molecular genetics and environmental science, but they have become particularly relevant in archaeology and anthropology.

There was a wide variety of speakers including some of our CFS researchers and from the IOA.

Agathe Ribereau Gayon gave a presentation on an important discovery in her research so far. She observed a unique type of trauma on human remains in an oceanic environment; she discussed how she utilised 2D-photogrammetric methods to capture and categorise the geometric data of the trauma.


Agathe presenting her research


I presented a poster on my MRes project; a ‘proof of methodology’ study on the use of 3D-photogrammetry (specifically structure from motion) for modelling and analysing sharp-force trauma on bone. 3D-photogrammetry is commonly used in large-scale modelling of built environments and archaeological sites for example. By using macro lenses and adjusting the lighting conditions I have been able to apply this on a much smaller scale to create interactive models with sufficient details for weapon classification. We achieved a high level of success in distinguishing serrated from non-serrated blade edges, when compared to the current standard method of Scanning Electron Microscopy. 


My research poster

My research poster

Lily Stokoe, from the Institute of Archaeology, has been utilising 3D scanning to study the aetiology of osteoarthritis. This is an enduring mystery for osteologists and medical researchers. Using the 3D scans, she is able to take accurate measurements of the angles in the femur to identify potential biomechanical and lifestyle causes.

Dr Carolyn Rando talked about the challenges of integrating morphometrics into teaching. It has become an important part of how we analyse geometric data in archaeology and anthropology, but if you have a room full of students with different levels of tech skill, how do you make it accessible to all of them? By getting hands on with a simple, structured practical taking measurements from a skull, beginners through to more advanced students can understand where these methods can be beneficial.


Carolyn giving her talk on teaching morphometrics


Since Carolyn started teaching this, the IOA has gone from having very few students working in GMM to having a wide range of Msc and PhD students working on different applications of 2D and 3D imaging methods.

The committee organised a great conference; with the diverse group of speakers the conference explored a range of methodologies, practical applications, and key issues in the field.


Catch up with the tweets from the event with #MORPH2016


CFS Seminar Series – Giorgio Blom (Staffordshire University)

By uctzreg, on 15 March 2016

Last Thursday, we had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Giorgio Blom to our CFS seminar series. He gave us a fascinating talk on his PhD project which is looking at the use of analytical techniques for the discrimination of decomposition products (e.g. putrescine, cadaverine, and methylamine) originating from a buried corpse. Giorgio has been looking at using these different techniques to narrow down the search area when looking for missing people.

Giorgio introducing his topic

Giorgio introducing his topic

Currently, the police use victim recovery dogs or geophysical instruments such as ground penetrating radar to locate possible clandestine graves. The problem is that when you have a large surface area, it’s very difficult to thoroughly search the whole area using these techniques. This is where Giorgio’s research comes into effect.

During his project, he focused on the following instruments to detect these decomposition products:

  • GC-MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry);
  • Ion chromatography;
  • HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography);
  • LC-MS (liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry).
  • Even though these instruments are still in the research stage, they’re showing great potential for the detection of decomposition products. Before finishing his talk, he gave two examples of locations where he tested these instruments: in both an aquatic and terrestrial environment, in order to determine their suitability for casework. Overall, his research was very impressive and I really enjoyed his talk!


    CFS Research Away Day

    By uctckeh, on 30 July 2015

    Our researchers (academics and PhD students) have all spent today in Oxford on an away day focusing on research and collaboration. Among the activities will be a scavenger hunt around Oxford, so teamwork will be critical! We will blog about the day in a couple of weeks, and we are of course hoping that it will result in lots of fruitful research collaboration, so watch this space.

    9th International Crime Science Conference

    By uctckeh, on 16 July 2015

    We ran a session at the conference today with talks from Professor David Spiegelhalter (University of Cambridge) and Dr Gill Tully (Forensic Science Regulator). It was well attended and both speakers gave thought-provoking talks on how forensic scientists communicate their findings in court, and how we express uncertainty within legal (and other) contexts. Both were of the opinion that juries should be given probabilities in the form of statements, but that these statements should be standardised and as transparent as possible. Professor Spiegelhalter stressed the importance of expert witnesses being able to not only interpret statistical probabilities (i.e. likelihood ratios) but also be able to communicate them clearly. It was a fascinating session and seemed to generate a lot of discussion among the delegates present.