Geophysical and botanical monitoring of simulated graves in a tropical rainforest, Colombia, South America
In most Latin American countries there are significant numbers of missing people and forced disappearances, currently 80,000 only in Colombia. Successful detection of shallow buried human remains by forensic search teams is currently difficult in varying terrain and climates. Within this research we built four simulated clandestine burial styles in tropical rainforests, as this is a common scenario and depositional environment encountered in Latin America, to gain knowledge of optimum forensic geophysics detection techniques. The results of geophysically monitoring these burials using ground penetrating radar, magnetic susceptibility, bulk ground conductivity and electrical resistivity are presented from one to forty three weeks post-burial. Radar survey results with both the 250 MHz and 500 MHz frequency antennae showed good detection of modern simulated burials on 2D profiles and horizontal time slices but poor detection on the other simulated graves. Magnetic susceptibility, bulk ground conductivity and electrical resistivity results were generally poor at detecting the simulated targets. Observations of botanical variations on the test site show rapid regrowth of Malvaceae and Petiveria alliacea vegetation over all burials that are common in these forests, which can make detection more difficult.