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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Visiting Professorships enhance environmental forensic science at Southampton

Published: 1 May 2015
Scanning electron microscope images

Environmental forensic science in Geography and Environment at Southampton is set to be enhanced with the appointment of two internationally renowned Visiting Professors.

Professor David Hawksworth and Professor Patricia Wiltshire will bring their extensive expertise in forensic palynology to their new roles at the University of Southampton. Until recently David was Head of Mycology (the study of fungi and mould) at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. He is the foremost authority on the use of mycology in forensic investigations. Patricia is the leading forensic palynologist (the study of pollen and spore analyses) in the UK and has undertaken many high profile criminal cases for the police and other law enforcement agencies.

The pair will be working with Southampton’s Professor of Physical Geography Tony Brown to develop forensic palynology at Southampton. Tony said: “I am delighted to welcome David and Patricia to Southampton. Their experience and expertise will be invaluable in the development of our forensic palynology work. I am looking forward to working with them both on the development of palynology, mycology and environmental DNA for forensic investigations.”

Over the last 20 years forensic ecology has been demonstrated to be valuable in criminal and civil investigations in the UK and abroad and has now been accepted as part of routine police procedure.

Tony has been at the forefront of these developments and as Director of the Palaeoenvironmental Laboratories at the University of Southampton (PLUS) he has been leading research into the widespread use of palynology in forensic botany and environmental profiling that has helped solved serious cases around the globe.

He will be working with David and Patricia to:

  • Foster joint publications in the forensic field
  • Accumulate a portfolio of high profile cases
  • Undertake joint research on aspects of decomposition and fungal proxies and surface pollen studies
  • Assist with the development of a potential forensic palynology impact case study

Professor Steve Darby, Head of Geography and Environment, added: “Southampton already is world renowned for developing palynology as a tool in forensic science. The appointment of our new Visiting Professors will enhance this expertise still further ensuring we remain at the forefront of this important and developing field.”

To find out more about PLUS, visit our website.

Professor David Hawksworth
Professor Patricia Wiltshire
In the mortuary
SEM pollen examples
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