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BIOLOGY - Forensic Entomology

Students enrolled in the Forensic Entomology course at Victor Valley College, in Victorville, California, study the identification, physiology and behavior of insects, and the interaction of insects with humans, including the effects of insects on human health. They study the role of insects in death and decomposition, estimating time of death and the basics of crime scene investigation. Insects of forensic importance are collected and preserved. The analysis of entomological data, the importance of weather data and compiling case records and entomological reports and courtroom testimony are topics which are discussed.

The laboratory and field work includes exercises and hands-on tasks to support important concepts covered in lecture sessions.  An emphasis is placed on observing the process of decomposition and applying entomological and anthropological techniques in a setting which replicates situations likely to be encountered by death scene investigators. This is accomplished by the use of swine ( Sus scrofa L.) to model the decompositional and related entomological phenomena. Swine have been shown to be an effective surrogate for human corpses in studies at the Anthropological Research Facility of the University of Tennessee, known as the “Body Farm”.

Students come into contact with decomposing organic matter, including dead animals and handle insects, including fly maggots and other immature stages of insects during the course of their studies. The exercises are conducted under supervised conditions using approved instruments and techniques but the course is definitely not for the squeamish. Students learn to work as a team to perform the various tasks that must be accomplished during a crime scene investigation including the preparation and presentation of relevant reports and exhibits.