Palynomorph retention on clothing under differing conditions

Louise Rowell

    Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

    391 Downloads (Pure)


    [Truncated abstract] Palynology has been used in a number of criminal cases where pollen and spores (palynomorphs) on clothing has featured as evidence. Pollen and spores are microscopic, generally morphologically unique to a plant genus and often species, resistant to decay, produced in large amounts and are components of soil. These unique features of pollen and spores make palynology a highly valuable forensic tool. Clothing is an excellent collector of pollen and spores as they become trapped in the fabric weave when clothing is brushed against flowering plants, comes into contact with dust, soil or air-borne pollen. Most forensic palynologists have found that palynomorphs from a crime scene may remain on clothing after washing or several days wear. No empirical research has been conducted on the retention of palynomorphs on clothing under differing conditions. Research of this kind is required to provide support for the future presentation and validation of palynological evidence in court. This project examined the relative retention of palynomorphs on clothing that had been worn during a simulated assault in a sheltered garden on the grounds of St George's College, Western Australia. Three replicate control soil samples each were collected from the actual assault scene and the whole garden to provide a baseline palynological profile for comparison to the experimental (Evidentiary) clothing samples. Forty pollen samples from the predominant species of plants in the garden and surrounds were collected, processed and databased as a reference for palynomorph identification. Standard T-shirts and jeans were chosen as the research clothing. During the simulated assault the knees of the jeans and the backs of the T-shirts came into abrasive contact with the soil of the garden for approximately one minute. The clothing then underwent three 'conditions' to simulate 'real life' situations. Three clothing sets were immediately collected after the assault (E1), three sets were worn for a period of three days after the assault (E2) and three sets were washed after the assault (E3). ... The Background clothing samples did not have a profile similar to the research garden but the profiles collected from each set reflected the areas to which they were worn. The number of palynomorphs per gram of garden soil ranged from thousands to tens-of-thousands of palynomorphs. The total number of palynomorphs collected by the E1 samples ranged from 100,000 to millions per clothing item. The E2 samples retained 1000's to tens-of-thousands of palynomorphs and the E3 samples retained 100's to 1000's of palynomorphs. The background clothing samples collected 1000's to tens-of-thousands of palynomorphs. These results confirm that jeans and T-shirts worn during an assault then worn for a period of days, or washed, will still contain pollen and spores characteristic of the assault area. This highlights the importance of investigating police enquiring where and for how long clothing of interest has been worn before and after an event, or if the clothing has been washed since the event. The results of this study will provide forensic palynologists with supportive data for future casework involving clothing.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


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