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Explorations in the world of science.


Amoret Whitaker

June 17th, 2013

Episode 275 of 558 episodes

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Amoret Whitaker, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. Her intricate understanding of the life cycles of flies, beetles and the other insects, which feed on decomposing bodies, means she is regularly called by the police to the scene of a crime or a murder investigation. There she collects and analyses any insect evidence to help them pinpoint the most likely time of death. In some instances, this can be accurate to within hours. She is one of only a handful of forensic entomologists working in the UK. She talks to Jim about her life as a research scientist, breeding flies in the far flung towers of the Natural History Museum and her work as a forensic expert with police services across the country. Dropping her work at a moment's notice, she can be called any time of day to anywhere in the country to attend a crime scene. She also talks about her regular trips to a research facility at the 'Body Farm' at the University of Tennesee in Knoxville, America, to get a better understanding of how real human bodies decompose. Her passion is insects and while our instinctive reaction to flies and maggots may be one of revulsion - when you take time look at them properly and in detail, she says, you can see what truly incredible creatures they are. (Image: Amoret Whitaker)