Forensic Science at John XXIII College

On Wednesday 9th of May we were honoured to have Dr David Cooke, a forensic entomologist from UWA, speak to our Integrated Science and Senior Biology classes about his work. Forensic Entomology is the use of insects and other arthropods that inhabit decomposing remains to aid legal investigations. They are able to determine the time (postmortem interval or PMI) or site of human death based on identification of insects and arthropods collected from or near corpses.

A part of David's job as a forensic entomologist involves:

  • identifying the immature insects.
  • determining the size and development of the insects.
  • calculating the growth of the insects and passage through stages of the life cycle in laboratory.
  • comparing the growth against weather conditions to estimate time of oviposition (egg laying).

The students were involved in some real life identification of insect larvae (maggots!). Two deceased guinea pigs had been left outside for varying times and the students, with David's help, compared the insect type and development on each corpse to identify how long they had been exposed to the elements.

Our students are to be commended on their high level of maturity at being able to stomach the foul smell of decaying carcasses and actually witnessing the maggot masses inside! Dan Hunt and Nathan Chwastiak are to be applauded for being brave enough to feel the temperature of the maggot masses within the decomposing guinea pigs with their FINGERS!

Tamara Weston
Koolyangarra House Coordinator
Science Teacher