We sat down for an introduction and interview with Rosie Everett, Forensic Ecologist at Alecto Forensics. Rosie has been a member of team Alecto since April 2019 and joined the company full time in 2021.
Rosie’s primary role within the company is to provide ecological support to major crime investigations, with a focus on the micro and macro expansion of environmental samples as a direct comparative to scenes and exhibits. She has worked with a number of UK police forces and has also developed key techniques in forensic ecological investigation for UK heritage crime in collaboration with Historic England.
Delving into the world of forensic ecology, Rosie highlights the need for further academic research in this field and stresses how, sometimes, a cup of tea and a Mars bar at the end of a hard day’s work is the thing that keeps you going!
When did you first know you wanted a career in forensics?
“I got into forensics through my career in environmental archaeology and it wasn’t necessarily a path that I was going to follow.
“I had spent a lot of time learning about environmental archaeology and the application of diatoms and pollen within this context. It was highlighted that there was a gap in the market for this within forensic research, so I gave it a go and haven’t looked back since.
“After I had finished my undergraduate degree where I specialised in environmental archaeology, I embarked on a placement at the James Hutton Institute under Professor Lorna Dawson.”
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
“The challenge at the moment is making people aware that we’re here, of the work we are doing and that forensic ecology is an applicable discipline to crime scene investigation.”
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
“I think the best part is when you know that you’ve contributed towards a case where there is a conviction at the end. The other part that I enjoy the most is supporting police forces and being part of that environment.”
How do you cope with the stresses of working as a forensic ecologist?
“The key is to try and leave it at the door at work. Talking to your colleagues really helps too.
“There are some scenes that can be incredibly distressing, but the best thing to do is to talk to the people around you because you’ve got that shared experience. Being able to recognise when it has been a difficult time helps immensely.
“It’s also really important to make sure that you’re able to switch off. I like to go for a run at the end of the day if it’s been a particularly tough day. The fresh air always helps.”
Would you rather work in the lab or at a scene and why?
“I love being on scene and I love being part of a team and working with different groups, be it the police or other forensic specialists. The lab is fun and the lab is good, that’s where the work is done. But I’m a people person and I do like being out on scene.”
What is the most memorable scene you’ve worked on to date?
“I was called out to a body recovery very late in the day around 5pm. Myself and the whole of Alecto Forensics along with the police force involved and the pathologist were working until around 11pm, having already done a full day’s work.
“It was the collaboration and the comradery at that time of night. We were all absolutely exhausted and freezing cold, but what really stayed with me was the way in which we all worked together to get the job done. It sounds really cliched, but we had search officers with us, police officers, the forensics teams, and our role was conducting body recovery. There was even a cup of tea and a Mars bar at the end of the scene!
“It’s that level of support that reminds me why we do what we do.”
What do you think the future holds for forensic science?
“With the implementation of ISO over the next couple of years, I think it gives companies like Alecto Forensics the space to expand on the great work that we’re already doing.
“Because of this, I think that forensic ecology will reemerge as a strong discipline within forensics. There is some fantastic research coming out of universities at the moment and the discipline as a practice is growing. We have so many fantastic forensic specialists within Alecto and beyond, so I think that we will see increased collaborative research and practitioner work with police forces and forensic providers such as Forensic Access. Hopefully in the future we’ll see some of the research coming out of academic spheres as well.”
How authentic is the crime scene investigation we see portrayed on television?
“Is it realistic? It’s very glamorous, I never look that glam on scene!
“I think what these shows are really good at showing is the nuances and the difficulties of working on scenes. In terms of the number of specialists involved, by the time you get to conviction it’s not just one person leading the work, there are hundreds of different people involved in the case – all the way from administration support up to the pathologist and the forensic specialists. It’s not just a single person process.”
What do you do at work on a daily basis?
“No day is the same. This week I have been in the laboratory doing some examinations of which I will write a report for.
“I also have a student with me in the lab. Alecto supports placement students for forensics, and I have an undergraduate student with me this week doing some observation work.
“In the next few weeks I’m out working on scenes every day. So every day is very different and very varied. If we’re not working on casework, we’re looking at how we can develop and working on our protocols. Because every day is different, it’s exciting.”
Who or what inspires you?
“I really enjoy when the little bit of work that I do supports a case and helps police forces with their investigations.
Even if it doesn’t contribute to the overall conviction, if it gives police forces guidance on what their next step is that’s really rewarding. For me, that’s what I strive for… being able to contribute.”
How does Alecto Forensics differ from other companies that you’ve worked for?
“Alecto is fantastic because it has a wide range of specialists and we all work together. We don’t just sit as single entities. We might have an ecology team, an archaeology team and an anthropology team, but we all work as a collective and I think that’s a really unique aspect of Alecto’s work ethos.”
What advice do you have to offer for someone new in the industry?
“Not to be afraid to ask for advice, guidance and experience. We’re always at the end of a phone or a contact email… just come and talk to us because forensics is a very niche area and there aren’t that many jobs.
“But it really helps when you get to know who’s in the business, and then how we can help you. Just don’t be afraid to get in contact
What hard and soft skills should someone in your field have?
“Soft skills – good communication, good teamworking and the ability to work on your feet and be quite dynamic.
“Hard skills – I don’t think there’s anything in particular. We all come from such a range of different backgrounds: we’ve got everyone from hardline chemists to people with degrees in zoology.
“I think it’s just about taking the observational skillsets you have as a soft skill and turning that into something that you love. I trained as a classical environmental archaeologist and my dissertation was on coring lakes in Corsica, but I knew that certain aspects of that could be applied to UK forensics.
“So it’s about being able to take what you know and develop it to that context and adjust your skillset.”
To find out more about our ecology forensic services and ecology evidence interpretation, contact us via Tel: +44 (0) 1772 715050 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.