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Unit Overview


This is an introductory unit in molecular osteology, the interdisciplinary collaboration between physical anthropology and molecular biology to facilitate forensic identification of unknown remains. The unit provides students with basic knowledge, and practical experience, in the following concepts and principles: (1) bone diagenesis—considerations for molecular sampling; (2) fundamentals of proper preparation of bone material prior to molecular sampling; (3) DNA extraction and analysis—sex determination and general ancestry; (4) species and personnel identification using mtDNA and STR profiles; (5) guidelines for analysis—minimisation of contamination, authentication and reproduction; (6) laser ablation ICP-MS and spectral fingerprinting; (7) isotopes and their application in determining geographic origin and diet; and (8) commingling of bones—reassignment using bone isotope composition.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face

Students are able to (1) explain bone diagensis and how it affects the ability to acquire forensic data.; (2) demonstrate competence in sampling procedures, including decontamination; (3) identify the latest available methods for molecular analysis of bone material and critically evaluate their forensic efficacy; (4) define laser ablation and other chemical approaches for the analysis of biological samples; (5) explain the analytical procedures involved in the reassignment of commingled remains based on molecular and bone chemistry approaches; and (6) demonstrate an awareness of the latest developments in molecular osteology in relation to forensic practice.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) practical work; (2) research essay

; and (3) examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Silvana Gaudieri and Associate Professor Daniel Franklin
Unit rules
enrolment in
the Graduate Certificate in Forensic Anthropology (72280) Graduate Diploma in Forensic Anthropology (72380)
or Master of Forensic Anthropology (72580)
Contact hours
lectures: 8 x 1.5 hours
tutorials: 8 x 1.5 hours
lab work: approximately 2 hours per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.