Friday, September 13, 2013

Insects are the Library of Life on Earth

Shellie and Jeri front row
There are over 20,000 varieties of flies.

Virginia Museum of Natural History
Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of VMNH, presented “Insect evidence from serial killings: The use of museum collections to assist investigators” to the public on September 12 at the museum. During his presentation, Dr. Keiper discussed his work as a forensic investigator in actual serial killing cases and how the use of insects from crime scenes can often serve as an important element in helping the justice system.

The lecture was part of the museum's "2nd Thursday Science Talks", which features a new scientific topic each month presented by experts on the respective subjects. The presentations are free to the public and occur the second Thursday of each month through May 8. For more information, including a complete schedule, be sure to visit

.  Dr. Keiper presents “Insect evidence from serial killings" 
Shellie taking notes at the lecture 

Dr Joe Keiper sharing actual collected specimens from a current serial killing case
Being a Virginia Master Naturalist, this program was intriguing to me. Having only a minor knowledge of Entomology, I was interested in learning how much is unknown about the subject. 

There are over 20,000 varieties of flies.

Flies are not something too many scientists are interested in studying.

Dr Keiper told us about the Ecotone effect for crime scenes. Ecotone being an "edge effect" where two different ecological habitats come together, and intersect, and that area being the greatest area of diversity of organisms, which is a highly productive transitional environment.

From this same scenario, Dr Keiper has coined the phrase "Death's Edge Effect" = where life and death come together. He uses this "Death's Edge Effect" in aiding his forensic entomology.

By using insect succession, he is able to assist in a crime line, which may be the only evidence available.

"Insects are the Library of Life on Earth" said Dr Joe Keiper

You can visit the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville here.

Thank you VMNH and Dr Keiper for giving us  this very interesting lecture. We recommend the "2nd Thursday Science Talks"  to anyone wanting to learn something new!

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