Researchers from Australia’s Flinders University have devised a technique for linking environmental DNA — DNA collected from environmental samples such as soil, seawater and snow — on the belongings of criminals and suspected terrorists to establish a link to crime scenes, victims or specific regions.

Through a project dubbed “InFoDust: The intelligence and forensic potential of dust traces for counter-terrorism and national security,” Flinders’ researchers are working toward tracing the source of dust found on a suspect’s clothing, baggage, shoes and passports, for instance. Flinders' researchers believe that this data might establish links between a suspect and specific regions where crimes or terrorist acts have been committed.

In the lab, researchers extracted environmental samples via “massively parallel sequencing” technology, acquiring microscopic environmental trace evidence via soil, geochemical, bacteria and fungal analysis. The research team believes the technology could have implications for counter terrorism and national security applications.

The research is detailed in the study, "Massively parallel sequencing is unlocking the potential of environmental trace evidence" which is published in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics.

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