University of California, Riverside Professor Alec Gerry said intense student interest in crime scene shows led him to develop a forensic entomology course.
As many PMPs know, during the first few days after death, flies specializing in decomposition of animal and human remains will deposit eggs on a corpse. The eggs hatch, and fly larvae develop. If an entomologist knows the temperatures the body was exposed to, he or she can determine the age of the maggots and then backdate to estimate time of death. Or at least, estimate the time that the corpse was first exposed to flies.
In addition to text-book learning, students get hands-on experience such as "scooping maggots into 'meat packets,' tin foil containers containing chicken liver for feeding the maggots."
Gerry said that whether the students go on to a career in helping solve crimes or not, Gerry hopes students ultimately walk away from the class with an appreciation for deep learning in an age of instant gratification. “You can’t scan an insect with a smartphone and have an accurate accounting of the insect evidence,” he said.
At the very least, he encourages students to develop an even greater appreciation for the mysteries that remain in the natural world and for the field of entomology. “Insects are some of the smallest creatures on Earth,” he said. “But there’s so much they can teach us about ourselves.”