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Transferability of Australian diatoms to clothing: Assessment of several extraction methods on different fabric types under laboratory conditions

Magni, P.A., Mohan, M., Vadiveloo, A.ORCID: 0000-0001-8886-5540 and Moheimani, N.R.ORCID: 0000-0003-2310-4147 (2020) Transferability of Australian diatoms to clothing: Assessment of several extraction methods on different fabric types under laboratory conditions. Forensic Science International, 312 . Article 110297.

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Crime scene investigation protocols and procedures are well established when concerning terrestrial environments, but are limited when associated with aquatic environments.

In aquatic contexts, the soil, sediments and microscopic algae (e.g. diatoms) may all be used as sources of trace evidence for criminal investigations. Diatoms are one such source that can be used to support the diagnosis of death by drowning and can be used to verify contact between a suspect and a specific water body. For the latter, diatoms can be collected from clothing and shoes for forensic comparisons. Over the years, there have been several methods proposed for the extraction of diatoms from clothing, however, a best practice method is yet to be established and is still open to debate.

The present research represents the first investigation that evaluates four different methods for the extraction of native and common Australian diatom species from four different types of fabrics. Diatoms of two different species and shape (pennate and centric) were cultivated in stimulated experimental waters – prepared using either monocultures or mixed cultures of the selected diatoms. Diatom concentrations were set to mimic the natural population (low to bloom events) as commonly found in the Swan River Estuary of Western Australia. Cotton, denim, blend, and acrylic fabric types were placed in experimental waters. Diatom extraction was attempted using methods already proposed in the literature, these include: rinsing with ethanol (RE); rinsing with ethanol together with the application of centrifugal force (RECF); digestion with hydrogen peroxide (H); and a new method of ashing that has never been tested before (dry ash, DA).

Results of this research showed that a) the type and the concentration of the mono and mix diatom mixtures significantly affects the transfer and extraction from different types of fabric; b) a noticeable extraction difference is observed between the fabrics, establishing denim, acrylic and blend fabrics as possessing the better extraction rates; c) H treatment had the highest extraction rate of diatoms; d) the application of centrifugal force on the RE method significantly improved the extraction of diatoms; e) DA is a potential method for the extraction of pennate-shaped diatoms from all of the tested fabrics, however, does have a tendency to induce modifications of the morphological structure of the diatoms. Overall, the application of different extraction methods is suggested to maximise the extraction of diatoms that would closely reflect their natural assemblage in the water body under investigation.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Algae R&D Centre
Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: © 2020 Elsevier B.V.
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