ISU anthropology department receives $500k grant to develop forensic science techniques for identifying people under 25 years of age

POCATELLO—The Idaho State University Department of Anthropology has received a $510,409 grant from the National Institute of Justice to develop forensic science techniques to better identify individuals under 25 years of age for criminal justice purposes.

The department will use the grant for to develop age and sex estimation techniques for a modern, diverse American population, said Kyra Stull, ISU assistant professor of anthropology and the grant’s principal investigator.

Kyra Stull, ISU associate professor of anthropology.

Kyra Stull, ISU associate professor of anthropology.

“Today’s population is taller, heavier and matures earlier than older populations, which means that the odds of identifying someone using those methods is less likely,” Stull said. “Hopefully we will increase identification of unidentified sub-adults with the success of this grant.”

The department will collect 2,500 multi-slice computed tomography (MSCT) scans from medical examiners offices in Albuquerque and Baltimore. Multi-slice computed tomography is a type of advanced imaging technique that takes many cross-sectional ‘slices’ or images of the body. This enables anthropologists and, primarily, clinicians, to see the internal elements without needing to do any cutting or require a body donation. The sample includes individuals from birth to 25 years of age.

”Because forensic anthropologists require large sample sizes from modern populations and our body donation programs do not grow or change at the same rate as the larger population, using MSCT images allows us to obtain a large sample,” Stull said.

Currently in biological and forensic anthropology, there is no appropriate method to estimate age and sex of an unknown individual in the United States that is younger than approximately 20 years of age. The previous techniques were developed from antiquated samples, which are not appropriate for modern populations. Co-principal investigators are at Mercyhurst University.

Stull applied for the grant in April 2015, and the grant will run from Jan.1 to Dec. 31, 2017. ISU was one of 60 schools to receive the federal funding. The total amount of money distributed was about $29 million.
“We were up against all other fields in forensic sciences,” Stull said.