While growing up as a child, Dr. Martin Hall used to collect beetles and blowflies. He went on to study the subject and in 1989, he became a forensic entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. His job was to research animal diseases and their link to insects.
In March of 1992, all of that changed when the skeletal remains of a young woman were found. The police called Dr. Hall because they knew forensic entomology could provide answers that more traditional inquiries could not.
“It opened up a completely new world which I had never expected before,” said Dr. Hall. “I suddenly found myself in an environment I had not considered in my wildest dreams.”
By analyzing the age and type of insects and larvae at the scene, Doctor Hall was able to provide clues about how long the body had been there after it had been dumped.
Since that time, the number of cases that Dr. Hall has been involved in has skyrocketed. Police work now takes up about half of his work week and he handles between 10 and 20 cases a year.
Doctor Halls says, “You have to think like a maggot. Where would I go if I was a maggot? What would I do? The first time you do see a dead body is a bit disquieting but I’m relatively comfortable in doing it now.”
“Sometimes bodies in houses can be more difficult than dealing with a body in a field. When a body is in a field, you can turn off your emotions to some extent and view the whole scenario in a perfectly detached way. In a house, there are more artifacts and signs of their life around – more clues that this person was a living being not so long ago. You only get one chance to gather the evidence and it’s vital nothing is missed.”
Working with the legal system is quite different than working in the world of science but he says that it can be very fulfilling. “Many people may be beavering away their lives with research and not see anything productive come from it,” he said. “For me, it’s great to see an outcome every few months at the end of a criminal case.”
Termite Terry says, “Today, many students are graduating from college and are finding it difficult to find a job. The field of entomology is suffering from a serious shortage of grads and there are a lot of jobs available in this field. I know that very few young students would ever dream of becoming an entomologist, but this field of study is growing more important everyday and the opportunities for high paying jobs are out there with few people pursuing them. If you know of a student that is interested in this field of science, we strongly recommend that you have them talk to the staff at the University of Riverside. They have a great Entomology Department and you’ll have an opportunity to study with some of the brightest scientists in the field.”
Have you ever thought about studying this subject yourself? The possibilities in the world of entomology are endless and who knows what can happen? Maybe you could go on and become a star in your own “C.S.I.” reality show!