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Assistance for Cadaver Sniffer Dogs

Enhance the performance of soil sampling.
  [vote for,

Over fifty years ago I worked briefly in a forensic science laboratory. I recall that in the investigation of suspicious fires the search for organic accelerants could be assisted by placing material from the scene in a large glass sweet jar which was then sealed. After a period to allow equilibrium to be achieved the lid would be removed and the human nose applied to more easily detect any offending organic material such as gasoline or kerosene. (I do recall one wag presenting a colleague with a pair of seriously soiled trousers and then asking if there was a smell of petrol.)

It may be possible to assist sniffer dogs in the search for cadavers by collecting sub-soil samples from an area of interest and then placing the samples in a suitable glass jar before sealing. The samples could then be taken back to base and after allowing a period for any odours to accumulate in the dead space above the sample, the lid could be removed and the jar presented to the sniffer dog.

There is the possibility that the dog would work better in a room with fewer diversions and also be able to quickly cover many more samples. Further, a number of dogs in succession could cover the same samples if the bottles are only briefly opened.

Some work would be needed to establish the best sampling strategy but perhaps one jar would be suitable for ten auger samples taken from a 10 meter square area and would yield enough material to get a result which would narrow down the final search area.

This would primarily be of interest to forensic professionals but it would also allow amateur groups with suitable dogs to organise themselves and train before investigating historical cases. (In the UK we have such cases in remote woodland and moorland.)

There is the problem of training material for the dogs as the use of actual human remains is obviously precluded but I do wonder if the use of soils from a human woodland burial area would be ethically acceptable especially if there was a clause in a will specifically allowing it.

corvuscornix, Jun 09 2019

https://www.nature..../d41586-019-01436-8 This would serve but would non-professionals be allowed access? [corvuscornix, Jun 09 2019]


       // as the use of actual human remains is obviously precluded //   

       Why ? Human remains are used to train medics, and for other research. There's the famous "body farm" where rates if decay are investigated using donated cadavers. This is no different.   

       If there are ethical issues, it would be simple to use the welsh, who are quite close to humans (unfortunately ).
8th of 7, Jun 09 2019

       //There's the famous "body farm"//   

       There is some changing of atttitudes in the UK. See ref.
corvuscornix, Jun 09 2019

       //the use of actual human remains is obviously precluded//   

       Without any comment intended oon the rest of the idea.   

       These are presumably small samples intended for training in the detection of trace samples in a larger mass of other stuff, a whole body or even a death in order to acquire suitable samples seems unnecessary so I fail to see a problem.   

       A small decomposing congealed blood sample taken from a willing & living lab assistant is going to smell just the same as decaying blood from a corpse after all.
Skewed, Jun 09 2019

       // would non-professionals be allowed //   

       Since being dead is an activity open to both amateurs and professionals, there seem few, if any, grounds for discrimination.
8th of 7, Jun 09 2019

       If it must include flesh.. an add campaign asking people to post you their corn shavings?
Skewed, Jun 09 2019

       I think you'd have to be working with whole bodies, not small samples. For one thing, a whole body contains many different types of material (skin, bone, fat, muscle, brain, liver, intestinal contents) which contribute to the decomposition odours.   

       But if you've got to sample the soil, I wonder if electronic noses on the end of long probes wouldn't be easier. If they're not sensitive enough now, they will soon become so. There's also ground-penetrating radar, which again will only get better.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 09 2019

       That's a lot of R&D effort to eventually develop something that might be approaching as good as a Springer Spaniel, but without the amazing all-terrain all-weather capabilities, compact size, ruggedness, and ability to fetch your slippers when you get home.   

       We suggest a test. Firstly, get your combination electronic nose and radar device to search a 45degree slope covered in rocks, small trees, brambles and loose earth. Then throw it in a lake.   

       If it comes back to you seconds later, still in perfect working order, and wagging its tail because it thinks being thrown into a lake is a great game (particularly if there's a tennis ball or stick involved) then all you have to do is give it the sense to come in out if the rain, an ability Spaniels seem to lack.
8th of 7, Jun 09 2019

       If you don't mind my asking, [8th], what was the name of your all- terrain, water-tolerant, kibble-fuelled, slipper-fetching, flop-eared olfactory unit?
pertinax, Jun 11 2019

       Ben. It's best to stick with single syllables when naming Spaniels, lest their intellect be overtaxed.
8th of 7, Jun 11 2019

       Bodies can be hard to find, even when the general area where they are located is known. This is proven by the difficulty with finding the remains of those murdered and 'disappeared' by Sinn Fein during the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland.
xenzag, Jun 11 2019

       Why do I think of many cadaver dogs strapped to a long plank which is on the back of a tractor. Would speed up searching large areas.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 11 2019

       I think you only need one dog, mounted on the edge of a large rotating disc.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 11 2019

       Hmm, dizzy dog might not be at its best, slow figure of eights might be more humane, no?
not_morrison_rm, Jun 13 2019


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