SFU forensic professor tracks poachers through wildlife clues
Simon Fraser University supports Canada’s role in fighting the $10 billion global trade in illegally-taken wildlife parts.
On the coasts of B.C., little is done by the government to protect wildlife from poaching. Canada has become a hot bed for the illegal killing of animals both for trophy and medicinal purposes. With wildlife populations depleting in other countries, Canadian Geographic says poachers have been taking advantage of Canada’s vast wilderness, protected areas and parks for more than a decade.
By using forensic entomology to place the time of death, Dr. Gail Anderson, a professor at SFU, is conducting research in the new field of Wildlife Forensic Science. Anderson was the first full-time forensic entomologist in Canada, and is one of just 15 certified by the American Board of Forensic Entomology.
Forensic entomology provides evidence in illegal-take cases through identification methods of animals and plant parts, specifically in altered form such as jewelry, fashion items or items used for medicinal purposes. According to Dr. Anderson, using forensic methods and protocols specifically adapted to these cases give law enforcement the ability to detect and prosecute wildlife crime.
The Forensic Entomology Lab was established in 1999 with the initial support from the British Columbia Proceeds of Crime and Simon Fraser University. This high-security, state-of-the-art facility provides a venue for training at a variety of levels including technical staff, volunteers, undergraduate students, graduate students, and criminology professionals. Some of the current areas of research include effects of marine submergence on carrion decomposition and arthropod colonization, insect succession on carrion in different biogeoclimatic zones, Calliphoridae development and taxonomy, and entomotoxicology.
One discovery at a time, Anderson and her team are helping debunk the common misconception that pure research has no practical application. They know that engaging research means mobilizing discoveries and enriching communities at the same time. Learn about other SFU initiatives that help to protect wildlife in B.C.
You can see Gail in the SFU: Engage video beginning at 2:35.