Workshop Overview:

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in conjunction with the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC), is sponsoring a series of workshops designed to help facilitate the transition of novel technologies into practice by operational forensic facilities. These Technology Transition Workshops, which highlight technologies developed under the NIJ’s forensic science research and development programs, are a critical component of NIJ’s research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) efforts.

The forensic community, in tandem with NIJ, has identified missing and unidentified persons as a significant problem faced by our nation. Accordingly, the purpose of this Technology Transition Workshop is to focus on advances in anthropology technologies as they relate to the identification of human remains. Particular attention will be paid to the determination of sex and ancestry using the 3D-ID software, which uses x, y, and z coordinates of traditional craniofacial landmarks; improving facial reproduction using empirical modeling; determining ancestry using analysis of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) DNA data; and use of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

3D-ID Geometric Morphometric Classification for Crania for Forensic Scientists Session: During this session, attendees will learn about geometric morphometrics as an approach to shape analysis that is used to efficiently and maximally incorporate the geometry of specimens into the analysis of their shapes. Lectures and exercises during this session will focus on 3D-ID, a dedicated, but flexible, Java software program that provides geometric morphometric tools to aid in the assessment of the sex and/or ancestral affiliation of unknown cranial remains. Attendees will practice providing three-dimensional coordinates of anatomical points available from crania, and then using the 3D-ID program to construct comparable reference samples and to assign their unknown cranial remains subject to one of several groups for which sufficient data are available. Quantitative measures will be used in the assignment and are provided for all tested groups so the attendees can make an informed choice after examining the relative similarity or distinctiveness of their assigned specimen.

Improving Forensic Facial Reproduction Using Empirical Modeling Session: Attendees will learn of an approach for forensic facial reproduction that uses empirical modeling during this session. The process of using a portion of the known landmarks traditionally accessed for facial reconstruction prediction, while also incorporating the effect of body mass index (BMI) in the empirical model, will be described. Unlike current forensic facial reconstruction techniques that use average facial tissue depths from a population sample of individuals, the technique applied during in this workshop session will use a non-parametric empirical model to predict facial tissue depths that are unique to each cranium. Attendees will discover that this technique also has potential to predict facial features like the eyes, nose and ears. The purpose will be to learn to use this technique to generate more accurate facial reconstructions, thus improving forensic facial reconstruction by enhancing the accuracy of soft tissue thickness prediction.

Forensic Ancestry Estimation Using DNA Session: The option of using DNA typing results to estimate ancestry will be discussed and demonstrated during this session. Estimation of ancestry, including possible admixture within an individual, as well as heterogeneity within a group of individuals, can be accomplished using allele frequencies for what are believed to be the contributing populations. For this purpose, panels of ancestry informative single-nucleotide polymorphism markers (AISNPs) have been developed. SNP genotyping data sets will be provided to illustrate the use of such panels. Various statistical approaches and programs will be used to obtain the best estimate of the ancestry/ethnicity of illustrative data during the practical exercises. A direct likelihood method, as well as programs such as STRUCTURE, will be considered. The limitations of using such AISNP panels for distinguishing ancestry and quantifying admixture on a global scale will be addressed.

NamUs Session: Attendees will become familiar with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a clearinghouse for missing persons and unidentified decedent records, during this session of the workshop. NamUs is a free online system that can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials, forensic specialists, such as anthropologists, and the general public in an effort to solve both unidentified remains and missing persons cases. The workshop’s NamUs session will familiarize attendees with the various aspects of the NamUs database—such as who can enter cases, the associated review process to ensure quality of entered data, the cross-matching feature, and search capabilities—and how NamUs has been used to date. During the practical portion of this session, attendees will explore the differences in system information accessible to general public users versus medical examiner/coroner, law enforcement and forensic anthropology specialist users.