Local author and scientist Dr. Lindsey Carmichael will help your kids “Spring Break Into Science” this March, with two forensics-themed events planned for HRM. The events are in celebration of her 13th children’s science book, Forensic Science: In Pursuit of Justice, new this year from ABDO Publishing.
There are a lot of kid’s books on the subject of forensics, but this one is different. “Other books explain how the science works,” Carmichael said. “Forensic Science explains how the science was invented in the first place.” The book uses landmark cases dating as far back as 44 BCE to show how scientists and law enforcement personnel developed the crime fighting techniques that are still used today.
“It’s an interesting approach to the topic,” Carmichael said, “because history and social issues and personality all come into play.” As an example, she cites rising crime rates during the Industrial Revolution as a driver for the development of human identification methods, including fingerprinting. Of course, it wasn’t long after the development of fingerprinting that criminals began toting gloves. “When you look at the way forensic science has evolved over time,” Carmichael explains, “you get a real sense of an arms race between creative criminals and groundbreaking scientists. That race continues today.”
Like most of Carmichael’s books, Forensic Science features some great Canadian content. “Canada’s been at the forefront in many areas of forensic science,” Carmichael said. “The RCMP, for example, has the best automotive paint chip database in the world. Law enforcement agencies around the globe use it when investigating hit and runs.”
Forensic Science: In Pursuit of Justice is Carmichael’s second book about the science of crime. In 2014, Ashby-BP published Fuzzy Forensics: DNA Fingerprinting Gets Wild, which is based in part on cases Carmichael investigated while pursuing her PhD at the University of Alberta. “Many people don’t realize that the same techniques used to solve human crimes are also used for crimes against animals, like last year’s poaching of a mainland Nova Scotia moose,” she said. “Those techniques include DNA fingerprinting.” In addition to DNA fingerprints she produced for her graduate research, Carmichael did genetic testing for 15 wildlife cases and testified as an expert witness.
Fuzzy Forensics focuses on Carmichael’s most unusual case, the “kidnapping” of a wild elk and her calf. The book traces this story from the initial investigation, through the science in the lab, and finally into the courtroom. “When I started working on the book,” Carmichael said, “my goal was simple—to introduce kids to an important and little-known aspect of forensic science. In the end, however, it became about honouring the dedicated men and women who devote their lives to protecting wildlife, both in Canada and around the world.”
The book has been well-received by children and adults alike. Last August, Carmichael toured Alberta, where she did crime-busting experiments with kids at the Telus World of Science, and captivated an entire junior high with the “yuckier” side of forensic science. Fuzzy Forensics has also been endorsed by renowned forensic anthropologist and best-selling author, Kathy Reichs. “I respect her scientific and creative work so much,” Carmichael said, “I haven’t been able to stop fangirling since I got the news.”
The first “Spring Break Into Science” event takes place March 14 from 12:00-2:00 PM, at Chapters in Dartmouth, where she’ll be signing copies of both Forensic Science and Fuzzy Forensics. The second is a book launch hosted by the Tantallon branch of the Halifax Public Library. The launch will feature a reading, cool forensics facts, and a DNA extraction experiment kids can try for themselves. Books will also be available for sale at the launch, which is scheduled for March 18th, from 10:30-11:30 AM.
Carmichael’s previous books have covered everything from health conditions to civil engineering. Publishing as L.E. Carmichael, she writes to fire the young imagination and to share the sense of wonder she gained in her career as a scientist. “I love going down little rabbit trails hunting for information I think people will love. Writing for kids reopens my eyes to how fascinating the world is – it’s an amazing, incredible place, and there’s no excuse for boredom. There are so many things to get kids excited about,” Carmichael said.
Carmichael lives with her husband Brian and two polydactyl cats near Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she is a writing tutor at Saint Mary’s University.