Chapter 1 : Definitions and Historical Perspectives in Environmental Forensics

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Environmental forensics has been previously described as the use of chemical, physical, and statistical techniques to investigate the sources and behavior of contaminants in the environment as a means to determine attribution for legal purposes. Although this definition still holds true, in environmental microbiology, metagenomics is increasingly being used, and the term “microbial forensics” is now used to include the investigation and sources of microorganisms and their genes that could also be used for attribution purposes. The former involves field analytical studies and both data interpretation and modeling connected with the attribution of pollution events to their causes. Microorganisms thrive in contaminated environments and can utilize a wide spectrum of contaminants as nutrients and energy sources. Therefore, the microbial community composition and structure is an exquisite indicator of environmental changes and can be used in forensic studies to trace sources of contamination and reconstruct events, even from a distant past. The latter includes the meta analyses of available data vis-à-vis genes in the environment. Metagenomics has opened up an incredible manner of obtaining useful data, in which sequencing allows us to find millions of genes present in a sample that can be used to reconstruct, e.g., certain parts of a crime scene, to attribute contamination to a specific source, or even to determine cause of death or the diets of ancient ethnic groups.

Citation: Toranzos G, Cano R. 2018. Definitions and Historical Perspectives in Environmental Forensics, p 3-15. In Cano R, Toranzos G (ed), Environmental Microbial Forensics. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.EMF-0016-2018
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Steps involved in microbiome studies and technical factors that influence results.

Citation: Toranzos G, Cano R. 2018. Definitions and Historical Perspectives in Environmental Forensics, p 3-15. In Cano R, Toranzos G (ed), Environmental Microbial Forensics. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.EMF-0016-2018
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