Using the details of a bug's life to convict a murderer is a fascinating subject, and the focus of Dr. M. Lee Goff's research and investigative work. (Dr. Goff is pictured above with Timia Crisp, Forensic Sciences '08 and Jan Balajadia, Graduate Research Assistant.)
Entomology, the study of insects, would seem to lead to a quiet, uneventful academic career. Early on, Dr. Goff became an authority on chiggers. But in the midst of chigger studies, Dr. Goff also happened upon a new and a bit more exciting career specialty at the time that it was being created: forensic entomology, the study of insect evidence at crime scenes. Goff was an early pioneer in this field, among the first group of entomologists interested in this work who describe themselves as "the dirty dozen." Goff has made significant contributions both in terms of research and in investigative work on cases.
Time of death and other aspects of a crime can often be determined by insect evidence. Certain insects are drawn to decomposing remains. Evidence that may help solve a mystery can be found by reading the clues in the insect's life cycle. A fascinating discovery made by Dr. Goff is that evidence of drug use by a victim can be found, sometimes years later, by analyzing the empty pupal cases left behind by insects at the scene.
This new twist on crime investigation has captured the public's imagination. Dr. Goff has served as a consultant to the popular CSI series and other crime investigaton dramas. Scriptwriters have used several of the cases described in Dr. Goff's book A Fly for the Prosecution (Harvard Books) as plotlines for shows, and Goff has been an advisor for additional fictional stories concocted just for the dramas.
Dr. Goff created and curated the popular traveling exhibit, CSI: Crime Scene Insects, that has toured natural history museums nationally.
For more detailed information, see Dr. Goff's faculty profile.
Insects are drawn to decomposing remains. Evidence that may help solve a mystery can be found by reading the clues in the insect's life cycle.