Student Involvement

Chelsea Van Den BurgChelsea Van Den Burg
First Year Graduate Student - Forensic Science 

"A Systematic Survey of the Scavenging Guild in the Long Island Sound and its Taphonomic Effects." A variety of factors influence the process of decomposition in marine environments, but scavenging may be major influence on how remains decompose. In order to better understand decomposition in a marine environment and how scavengers affect this process, pig carcasses will be placed in the Long Island Sound and observed until the remains are skeletonized. Both motion and still imaging will be used during the experimental period; motion imaging will be used for behavioral patterns and still imaging will be used for species identification. This survey will provide a detailed record of the types of scavengers present in the Long Island Sound and their effects on the taphonomic process in a marine environment.

After completing my M.S., I plan on continuing my education to get my Ph.D.


Amina KunovacAmina Kunovac
Senior, Forensic Science and Biology Pre-Med, Minor - Chemistry

For the last year and a half, I have been working on developing a method with a database that will allow differentiation between various shark species using morphometric analysis. The reason a new method is necessary lies in the prevalent illegal act of shark finning, which is the act of cutting off shark fins and discarding the carcass back into the ocean while the shark is usually still alive. Shark finning has become a huge problem for the ecosystem because humans are using the fins for shark fin soup and greatly over-exploit shark populations by causing approximately 100 million shark deaths a year. Creating this database would help the federal government implement the shark finning laws that have been put in place.

After graduation, I plan on continuing on with my education and obtaining a PhD in Biochemistry.


maria PanepintoMaria Panepinto
Junior, Forensic Science and Chemistry (Honors)

This project involves using the ratios of ions in vitreous humour to determine time since death. Vitreous humour is a gel that fills the space between the retina and the lens. Vitrous Humour is the ideal bodily fluid to use for this experiment because it is protected within the eye. Normally, a Sodium Potassium Pump regulates sodium and potassium concentrations in the cell. However, postmortem this pump stops running, so the ion concentrations are no longer regulated. The concentrations of individual ions have been used in the past to determine time of death, however the ratio of these ions has never been used. Hopefully, the ratio of these ions will give a more accurate representation of the postmortem interval. Capillary Electrophoresis is being used to determine the concentrations of these ions because it has been used in similar research previously, runs the vitreous humour quickly, and gives accurate results. The goal of this experiment is to establish how to use the ratios of sodium and potassium obtained from the CE to determine time of death.

After graduation I plan to attend graduate school to obtain my masters degree.


Allee SantorelliAllee Santorelli
First-Year, Forensic Science and Biology (Honors)

The fossil and artifact market is brimming with fake, altered, and wrongly identified objects. Is it possible to create a cast fossil that can fool an expert? Is there a process that can rapidly increase the rate of permineralization or recrystallization to create a “real” fossil? I will be looking into the alteration of environmental conditions and solutions in hopes of determining what methods may be used to create fake fossils. In the near future, I plan to study abroad and complete my research. After obtaining my degree through the University of New Haven, I plan to continue my education in graduate school.


Laura JankowskiLaura Jankowski
First-Year, Forensic Science (Honors)

My project is looking to see if it is possible to tell if an animal has been exposed to an artificial salt lick? How do artificial and natural salt licks differ? Will the concentration of certain compounds be different in the blood of an animal that has been exposed to an artificial salt lick and one who hasn't?

My future plans are to get my undergraduate degree in Forensic Science here at The University of New Haven and then go to graduate school.


Danielle McCullyDanielle McCully
Senior, Forensic Science and Marine Biology

“Comparative Analysis of Metal Concentrations of Blood and Cartilage between Shark Species.” My research consists of using a Scanning Electron Microscope – X-Ray Fluorescence (SEM-XRF) to detect heavy metal concentrations in shark’s blood and cartilage. I will be comparing the concentrations of metals in blood with the cartilage of the individual shark and then comparing metal concentrations of blood and metal between different species. I will be trying to see if one could differentiate between shark species through their metal concentrations in blood and cartilage.

My future plans are to work at a Marine Forensic Laboratory or a Wildlife Forensic Laboratory.