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Webinar: Forensic Geophysical Methods Used to Assist Law Enforcement Agencies with Locating Clandestine Graves (60 mins.)

  • October 31, 2022
  • 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
  • Webinar
  • 142


Forensic Geophysical Methods Used to Assist Law Enforcement Agencies with Locating Clandestine Graves


Tom Jordan, Ph.D., P.G.

Supervising Geologist

KEY Environmental, Inc.

PCPG will circulate a PDH certificate documenting registrant’s participation time, not to exceed 60 minutes, within 72 hours of the conclusion of the webinar.

Level: Introductory to Intermediate

Who should attend:  Engineers, hydrologists, geologists, and anyone who enjoys forensic investigation themed media.

Webinar Overview:  Youngstown State University (YSU) has initiated a forensic geophysics and clandestine grave research project with the intent of providing a better understanding of long-term and seasonal relationship between organic decomposition and geophysical signatures from human proxies buried in shallow graves in northeastern Ohio. This presentation will include a discussion of how monitoring the volatile organic compounds released during various stages of decomposition and collecting soil spectral analysis data will be correlated to the geophysical responses in an effort to refine the outcomes of this research.

Locating clandestine graves through the use of geophysics and cadaver dogs is expensive (~$100,000 per case) and problematic with reported success rate of approximately 30%. The outcomes from the YSU clandestine grave research project will be used to optimize the approach and methodologies based on inputs such as elapsed time since burial and responses due to seasonality in an effort to improve success rates and reduce government agency costs. This webinar will include a discussion of new technologies with applications beyond forensic investigations such as stepped frequency continuous wave (SFCW) ground penetrating radar (GPR) and high sensitivity potassium vapor gradiometers as well as old standbys that include electromagnetic induction (EMI) methods.  This talk will also provide an overview of our recent award winning criminal investigation work with various law enforcement agencies in support of their efforts to solve current and cold case murders. Background information including some rather grisly details involving research completed by others along with interesting details on our clandestine grave research facility that is located in rural northeastern Ohio will also be discussed.

About our presenter:  Dr. Tom Jordan is part-time teaching and graduate school research faculty at Youngstown State University and a Supervising Geologist / Geophysicist with Key Environmental, Inc. located in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. He has a B.A. in geology from Alfred University, an MS in geology from SUNY at Fredonia, and a Ph.D. in geology / geophysics from the University at Buffalo.  Dr. Jordan, his co-principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Dick, and the Physics, Astronomy, Geology, and Environmental Sciences (PAGES) department at YSU were recently awarded the FBI Directors Community Leadership award for providing their expertise to various law enforcement entities including the FBI’s Evidence Response Team. 

Dr. Jordan currently serves as the education chair for PCPG and is a past member of the Board of Directors.  He is a licensed PG in 10 states by ASBOG examination or reciprocity and has 35 years of professional experience working on geophysical projects for clients in the environmental, engineering, and resource exploration sectors.  Dr. Jordan also serves on the Board of Directors for a local community water authority and In his spare time enjoys researching and presenting talks on obscure and very interesting local historical characters, is active in various fraternal and community organizations, and is constantly testing and developing new approaches for teaching dry topics.

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