Asked FE Questions
should I take at university to eventually get into Forensic Entomology?
Ecology classes are also very useful. Try to specialise in an
insect group that you find interesting and that the Police will
find useful. If you have a forensics background already, the scene
experience will be helpful but is not necessary.
can I study Forensic Entomology?
universities do not have an actual forensic entomology degree;
however, you can begin by taking general entomology classes. Most
universities will offer one or two classes in entomology; however,
others will have an entire department devoted to this speciality.
Look at the universities in your area and find out which have
the best entomology program for you.
the graduate level it is possible to do a research project in
forensic entomology. Look for a supervisor willing to oversee
this type of research. If they do not feel they have enough experience
in the field you can also get someone externally, with more entomology
(ecology) or forensic entomology experience, as a second or external
supervisor. Look at your local museum, institutes of legal medicine,
pathology lab, or forensic science lab for someone who can help.
that blowflies are not the only arthropods of interest. In some
cases experts in mites, Muscids, or Phorid flies are contacted
for their expertise.
can I go to with questions about Forensic Entomology?
the European Association for Forensic Entomology consists of many
practicing Forensic Entomologists that can answer questions for
you. Local museums and universities may also have entomologists
that can help.
kind of research can I do?
Entomology still has much to be explored. Many people conduct
experiments using small or large pigs in several different conditions.
However, not all research has to be done with pigs. There is still
a great deal to be learned regarding the DNA of many insects.
Development rates of an abundance of insects are still unknown
yet vital to the work done in forensic entomology, therefore should
be considered. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something
in which you are interested. It also helps to do research in a
subject (or insect species) that is applicable to your area.
do I get permission to conduct my research?
may be different in every country. There are health and safety
forms to fill out and getting permission from the local government
can be time consuming. Often the best option is to secure a research
site on private land. There will still be health and safety forms
to answer but the process should be much faster. Many students
have been able to get permission to conduct research experiments
on local farms or on property owned by the university.
can I get pigs for research?
your local butcher or pig farmer. Depending on the size of the
farm there may be a mortality every day or every other day due
to natural causes. The farmer may agree to let you take this pig
free of charge; however, you will incur a fee if you want it to
be delivered. If you are looking for something a little bit more
controlled you may need to find someone to kill the pig(s) for
you. You may have them killed with a penetrating captive bolt
pistol but a special license is required for the use of such a
weapon. Many veterinarians have this licence and may agree to
do this for a small fee. A cheaper and possibly more humane option
is to get the farmer to shoot the pig(s) in the head. Depending
on where you are situated you may need ethical approval before
having pigs killed for research (rather than natural death).
If you are having difficulty finding a pig farm, call a veterinarian
and they will be able to point you in the right direction.
can I dispose of the pig carcasses when the research is finished?
universities have an incineration program. This means that once
a week (can be more or less) bags of items to be incinerated are
picked up by a private company. Ask your laboratory technicians.
They are probably the best people to see about this. If you are
not at a university, laboratories, hospitals, and police headquarters
also have such programs.
can I get work experience?
experience is difficult to find but it is not impossible. Finding
a research supervisor that takes entomology cases is the best
way to gain experience. If this is not possible consider getting
a summer research job in a forensic/police laboratory. You could
also volunteer at a museum. The more you are exposed to general
entomology the more you will become knowledgeable and attractive
to future employers.
can I get a job in Forensic Entomology?
jobs in forensic entomology are not very common. Most forensic
entomologists lecture at a university. Others work in museums,
hospitals, or research labs and are fortunate enough to incorporate
forensic entomology work into their schedule. Certain large forensic
laboratories employ forensic entomologist, but may also expect
them to do work in biology, chemistry, toxicology, or any other
discipline in which they have experience when there are not many
entomology cases. Do not expect to get a full-time job as a forensic
entomologist; instead focus your energy on a job you love that
would allow for you to also do case work.
or where can I get weather information?
data should be recorded using reliable and accurate equipment
such as a data logger. If you are only looking for general weather
data go to your national meteorological website. In the UK this
can I get funding to do research?
offering funding for research are numerous; however, finding one
specifically geared to forensic entomology research can be difficult.
Some offer PhD studentships, fellowships, funding to attend conferences,
and grants to study abroad whether for long-term or for just a
short period of time. What is important is that you are imaginative.
Many companies that are only somewhat related to entomology are
often surprisingly interested in forensic research. Also, forensic
entomology research can often be applied to other areas of ecology.
For example, could your research also be used in pest control?
Could you contribute in population monitoring or taxonomic research?
universities have an office devoted to funding; this is often
linked with the student employment office or the postgraduate
office. Ask your supervisor where this information is kept at
Studentships are often posted on employment websites
equipment can be important when conducting research/work in forensic
loggers are often crucial in FE
research/work. These record temperatures, as well as relative
humidity and more. An ideal data logger should be small, accurate,
waterproof, and hopefully have sensors to record the ambient temperature
and external probes to record the temperature inside a decomposing
body. Incubators or temperature controlled chambers are
important when collecting developmental data. Make sure that the
incubator is not too small and that these have sufficient air
circulation. With some incubators it may be necessary to occasionally
open the door for just a few seconds to circulate the air, but
now too long to alter the temperature. Good forceps; these
come in many shapes and sizes for all the varying functions. Soft
entomological forceps are important for the collection of larvae
but very fine forceps useful for observations of flies under the
This list can potentially be quite long; it very much depends
on your research topic. For a detailed list of items used for
work in forensic entomology please refer to the Best practice
in forensic entomology – standards and guidelines. International
Journal of Legal Medicine (2007) 121: 92-104.