CSIRO.au logo and link to website

CSIRO Land and Water information is being migrated to the CSIRO.au website.

View the new website: www.csiro.au/clw

Legacy Links

Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science (CAFSS)

Workshops and Training Courses

Purpose and Objectives | Important research and services role | Activities | Partners | Funding | Linkages | Workshops & Training | Publications | Education and Media | Contact Uss

First Int. Workshop on Criminal and Environmental Forensics | Second Int. Workshop on Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics | Forensic Soil Examination Course (Summer school / honours course)

We announce the intention to hold the the 2nd International Conference on Criminal and Environmental Forensics in Edinburgh, UK, 30 October – 1 November 2007.
Contact Lorna Dawson.

The 2nd International Conference on Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics

Themes: Environmental Soil Forensics, Criminal Soil Forensics, Geoforensics, Geostatistics, Analytical Diagnostics, Communications, International Soil Forensics-the way forward

Aim: This conference will discuss novel approaches in soil forensics. Maintaining a critical mass of research expertise is essential in providing tools to protect our way of life. This will provide an international focus for research and development in forensic soil science for both environmental and criminalistic objectives, particularly important in the current context of the threat of international terrorism, which stops at no boundary.

Audience: The conference will bring together key International researchers, consultants and police practitioners.

First International Workshop on Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics

Download the final program and book of abstracts (PDF, 390 kB)

While the advances described on the home page have set new benchmarks in forensic soil science, the future will require still better understanding and linking of soil science, geophysics, mineralogy, chemistry and molecular biology information because these techniques will have a major future role to play in forensic searching- either to locate buried anomalies, blast residue or eliminate areas from searches.

To this end CAFSS organised the First International Workshop on Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics, which followed the 18th International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences: Classroom to Courtroom from Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 April 2006 Perth, Western Australia

Target Audience

Australian and International researchers, practitioners and students with field and laboratory expertise in the location, recovery and analysis of soil and mineral samples from crime, disaster or environmentally contaminated scenes/sites.


  • To provide a review of established techniques of soil characterisation and comparison.
  • To promote in-depth discussion and cross-fertilisation of new ideas in leading-edge areas of research at the emerging interface between soil science and forensic science.


Dr Rob Fitzpatrick
Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science (CAFSS)/ CSIRO Land and Water
Telephone: (08) 8303 8511

Richard Clarke, Chemistry Centre Western Australia (CCWA)

Prof Mike McLaughlin Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science (CAFSS) / CSIRO Land and Water

Workshop Program

One of the key features of this workshop is that International and local speakers, selected on the basis of their expertise in technologies and approaches for characterising soils in the field and laboratory for criminal and environmental purposes, presented overviews with case studies.
Program and Abstracts ( PDF, 390 kB )


The workshop was partly supported by:

"Frontiers of S&T Mission and Workshop component of the International Science Linkages Programme", part of the Australian Government Innovation Statement

DEST logoATSE logo

Chemistry Centre (WA)

Chemistry Centre logo

Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science (CAFSS)

CAFSS logo

CSIRO Land and Water

CAFSS logo

Outcomes of workshop

Scientists from the United States , Scotland , England , New Zealand , Canada , China and across Australia presented a variety of engaging overviews of established techniques of soil characterisation and comparison and case studies related to areas such as soil profiling, molecular diagnostics, environmental chemistry, grave excavation and taphonomy (the study of the fate of remains of organisms after they die). The workshop style also promoted in-depth discussion and cross-fertilisation of ideas with Australian and International researchers, consultants and students with field and laboratory expertise in employing appropriate techniques to assist in the search, location and recovery of soil and mineral samples from crime, disaster or environmental pollution. The following issues and key areas were identified for the future of forensic soil science:

  • Need for increased collaboration and communication between research groups in different countries. There needs to be a willingness to share ideas and methods to ensure that any new techniques that we may adopt are the best and most robust. As well as ensuring that we don't re-invent the wheel, collaboration is important when methods reach the 'forensic validation' stage (e.g. recent DNA profiling/fingerprinting T-RFLP method developed by the research group at ESR Ltd, New Zealand ). An openness to share methodology and results means that a very thorough forensics validation (and trials between different labs) will be possible and this is vital before any forensic molecular DNA analysis is used in court.
  • The growing focus on security related issues and counter terrorism is one of the most significant challenges facing soil forensics in the future. There is a paradigm shift from not only providing soil forensic information for 'evidence' but also for 'intelligence'
  • There is a need to establish a broader commonality between "Forensic geology" and "Forensic soil science". Although in principle geology and soil science are closely related, there remains significant gaps in basic knowledge and lack of communication between these two disciplines. Major gaps are in the exceedingly limited amount of shared language. Particularly in the use of standard procedures and terms for describing and sampling soils (e.g. methodology for describing soil colour, consistence and texture developed by soil scientists over a period of more than a 100 years). The nature of soil databases and digital maps (GIS) requires consistent and correct use of terms. Finally, the word "source" in geology infers "geographic location of the original ore deposit for say Pb" whereas in soil or environmental sciences "source implies "type of material", for example soil or paint containing say Pb.
  • Continue to undertake 'high end case investigations' that require soil as evidence in criminal and environmental forensics.
  • Publish results / case studies where soil properties have been used successfully to both discriminate between and match soils for critical evidence.
  • Continue development of new and improved sampling and description methods.
  • Continue to refine current methodologies and techniques for reliable identification of soil properties.
  • Development of isotope and DNA profiling/fingerprinting techniques, which are scientifically and legally robust,
  • Focus on education and training. Proposal to hold a second "Hands-on Forensic Soil Workshop" over five days in Adelaide (approach NIFS for joint ideas). A recent proposal is for CAFSS to run this as a summer school / honours course (approval has been granted by Flinders University and The University of Adelaide to run this as a joint venture)
  • Development of field and laboratory protocols for criminal and environmental soil forensic investigations: work has commenced with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and South Australian Police (SAPOL).
  • Proposal to construct, test and validate a soil sampling kit for crime scene investigators. A prototype kit has been developed by CAFSS.
  • Proposal to hold the "Second International Workshop on Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics" in Scotland . An organising committee chaired by Dr Lorna Dawson of "The international "Geo-Forensic Network project (GIMI)" at The Macaulay Institute, Scotland has been established with assistance from the British Society of Soil Science and CAFSS.

Photo of people attending workshop

Forensic Soil Examination Course (Summer school / honours course)

The course goals are to provide students (honours and/or third year) and practitioners (e.g. police officers and related search / forensic personnel) with fundamental understandings of the principles of forensic soil science. The course is also designed for those working in forensic microanalysis and trace evidence having a solid background in polarized light microscopy, but have little to no practical experience in forensic soil examination. Soil scientists, geologists, botanists, and archaeologists having an interest in soil microscopy may also find this course useful.

Half or Full Semester Full-time, over three weeks:
Two weeks of lectured material, five practical sessions and two field excursions will be undertaken during the first two weeks of the course. The third week will be used for student revision with a final examination (40%) and one major field assignment report (35%) and three laboratory reports (25%) will comprise the remainder of the assessments.

For more information, contact: Dr Rob Fitzpatrick at CSIRO Land and Water Ph: 08 8303 8511