USE OF QUATERNARY PROXIES IN FORENSIC SCIENCE | Analytical Techniques in Forensic Palynology Chapter uri icon


  • © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Forensic palynology is a relatively little used technique in the toolbox of forensic scientists. In some regions, it has become accepted and is used frequently, while in others it remains underused or totally unknown. A major reason for its underuse is the lack of sufficiently skilled palynologists with a broad grasp of plant ecology and basic botany willing to enter the field of forensic palynology. Another problem focuses on the acceptance of the reliability of using pollen and other palynomorphs as forensic evidence by others. Because most forensic pollen studies rely on using light microscopy (LM), those studies do not provide the precision of species identification of most pollen types. Although forensic palynologists contend that the total pollen composition of a sample and the quantitative ratios of each pollen type can provide a high degree of analysis precision, others argue that pollen identification to the species level is needed to provide conclusive evidence. To answer that question palynologists normally present their conclusions in probabilistic terms and point out the ineffectiveness of applying most statistical techniques to support their data. Nevertheless, some researchers working in other areas of forensic science question why forensic palynologists do not routinely use scanning electron microscopy and/or transmission electron microscopy over the traditional use of LM analysis. Still others in related fields of forensics believe that advances in the study and use of DNA, Raman microspectroscopy, and stable isotopes, as each applies to the study of pollen grains, should provide the refinements needed to propel the field of forensic palynology into the forefront of forensic trace evidence studies. To answer these suggestions, each of these potential applications will be briefly examined as they pertain to the analysis of pollen for forensic use and then the advantages, limitations, and disadvantages of each will be outlined.

author list (cited authors)

  • Bryant, V. M.

citation count

  • 4

editor list (cited editors)

  • Mock, C. J.

Book Title

  • Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science

publication date

  • January 2013