Gail Anderson, forensic entomologist with Simon Fraser University, will speak on how her work helps solve crimes and even overturns wrongful convictions when she speaks at VIU ElderCollege’s speaker series March 7. (Photo submitted)

How to use flesh-eating insects in the pursuit of justice

Entomologist Gail Anderson created world’s first flesh-eating insect database to solve murders

A forensic entomologist can explain how she uses bugs to right mankind’s wrongs.

Gail Anderson, a forensic entomologist and academic and associate director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University, was scheduled to open the Vancouver Island University ElderCollege’s 2020 speaker series with her presentation, Forensic Entomology and the Righting of the Wrongs, on March 7 at Nanoose Place.

During her presentation Anderson will tell how her work has helped solve crimes and even overturn wrongful convictions.

“I will talk about three cases in which insect evidence was paramount in proving the innocence of people wrongfully convicted of murder,” Anderson said in a press release. “Forensic entomology is used in homicide investigations to estimate the length of time that insects have been colonizing and that gives the minimum length of time after death.”

Anderson is also an instructor at the Canadian Police College, a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the Canadian Society of Forensic Science and a member of the Canadian Identification Society and the International Association for Identification. In 2001 she was named one of North America’s leading innovators in the field of law enforcement. Her research has helped solve murders, catch poachers, overturn convictions and served as a resource for archaeologists.

Anderson’s lab at SFU was the first in North America to focus specifically on solving crimes through the study of insect biology. She has gone on to create the world’s first database of flesh-eating insects to be used in murder investigations.

Originally a high school science technician, Anderson became Canada’s first full-time forensic entomologist in 1992. Her testimony as an expert witness has been used in many homicide cases, including the trial of Robert Pickton. She has received numerous awards for her work.

VIU ElderCollege is an adjunct program of Vancouver Island University and has offered lifelong learning and continuing education for people 50 and older in Nanaimo and Oceanside for more than 25 years. VIU ElderCollege’s spring 2020 session is offering 93 courses on VIU’s Nanaimo and Parksville campuses.

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