University of Wisconsin - Whitewater
Subject Listing - Environmental Studies
Advisor: Prof. Pete Killoran
Saturday, Poster Session 6, Presentation Table 1, Health & Fitness Center
A FORENSIC ANALYSIS OF THE EFFECTS OF SOIL AND WATER CONDITIONS ON HAIR PIGMENTS AND DNA EXTRACTION-SUCCESS
The goal of this experiment is to elucidate the effects of soil, water, and mixtures of soil and water on pigments and DNA in hair samples. The importance of this experiment is to identify the physical and chemical significance of hair pigments in relation to its environment, and the degradation (presence absence) of DNA, which can further shape forensic evidence collection and interpretation. There have been a select few studies preformed however they have all been in southern climates and lack subjection to natural environments. This is the first such study in the Midwest, and the first to incorporate different climates and soil composition. It is hypothesized that in the presence of soil either underground or while submerged in water, hair pigments would change colors. Predictions were that blond hair would turn brown or red, brown hair would turn blond, and red hair samples would either stay red or turn blond. This research is ongoing, however the samples (experiment one) have been removed and observed microscopically for degradation patterns. Data collected from experiment one includes twelve underground and twelve water submerged samples. Very noticeable differences were observed in the underground samples: the black sample remained black, light blond turned brown or black, light/medium/dark brown samples stayed in the brown color spectrum, gray/brown turned white/translucent, and a white sample turned brown. The underwater samples included notable changes: light/medium/dark brown samples turned dark black or remained brown, and lastly light blond and black samples turned/remained black. Thus a few predictions were supported however the majority were not. Experiment two is under way which involves more diverse hair samples (those of different ethnic backgrounds). Furthermore, the DNA degradation (presence or absence) in hair under various environmental conditions is being tested. Testing effects of soil and water conditions on hair pigments and DNA extraction can potentially improve the methods of obtaining, analyzing, and preserving crime scene evidence.
Advisor: Prof. Pete Killoran, Advisor, UWW Undergraduate Research Program, Sociology and Anthropology, University of Wisconsin - Whitewater, Whitewater, WI