Canada: An innovative approach to teaching forensics at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada, proved that GPS isn’t just useful for finding the nearest gas station — it can actually help solve crimes.
The teaching approach developed at the university by forensic science programme director Tracy Rogers and GIS/data librarian Andrew Nicholson uses GPS and GIS techniques and devices to let students map out and spatially piece together crime scene clues for analysis.
The system digitises all the data and combined with photographs can even allow users to create a 3-D reconstruction of a crime scene.
Rogers said that the idea of using GPS-style technology in teaching forensics is a natural fit because similar mapping is already commonplace in archaeology. She added that students enjoy the work and feel a lot more involved than in traditional forensics teaching methods where data collection takes a back seat to analysis.
Nicholson said that the technique can actually help forensic investigation by letting students combine GPS and GIS data with things like photos and scanned maps to make the learning process far less abstract. “Students use a GPS survey instrument to record the positioning of things like clothing and footprints, then they take that data and map it. They’re taking what they’ve seen in the real world and digitising it so they can better analyse the particular position and distance between things.”