Forensic Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry Academic Article uri icon


  • Stable isotopes are being used for forensic science studies, with applications to both natural and manufactured products. In this review we discuss how scientific evidence can be used in the legal context and where the scientific progress of hypothesis revisions can be in tension with the legal expectations of widely used methods for measurements. Although this review is written in the context of US law, many of the considerations of scientific reproducibility and acceptance of relevant scientific data span other legal systems that might apply different legal principles and therefore reach different conclusions. Stable isotopes are used in legal situations for comparing samples for authenticity or evidentiary considerations, in understanding trade patterns of illegal materials, and in understanding the origins of unknown decedents. Isotope evidence is particularly useful when considered in the broad framework of physiochemical processes and in recognizing regional to global patterns found in many materials, including foods and food products, drugs, and humans. Stable isotopes considered in the larger spatial context add an important dimension to forensic science.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 2.35

author list (cited authors)

  • Cerling, T. E., Barnette, J. E., Bowen, G. J., Chesson, L. A., Ehleringer, J. R., Remien, C. H., ... West, J. B.

citation count

  • 43

complete list of authors

  • Cerling, Thure E||Barnette, Janet E||Bowen, Gabriel J||Chesson, Lesley A||Ehleringer, James R||Remien, Christopher H||Shea, Patrick||Tipple, Brett J||West, Jason B

publication date

  • January 2016