Mercyhurst University

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From forensics to fossils, science camps offer plenty

Thursday, July 16, 2015

File Photo: Fossil Hunting

Erie area high school students will discover the difference between how forensics is portrayed in popular media and the actuality of real-world crime scene investigations as they immerse themselves in Mercyhurst University’s weeklong Forensic Science Summer Camp July 20-24.

“The group will get a taste of what a forensic scienctist does day to day in the lab as they handle physical evidence, both from indoor and outdoor crime scenes,” said Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D., who heads the Applied Forensic Sciences Department at Mercyhurst University.

The camp features hands-on activities with interactive lectures, including sessions on fingerprinting, ballistics, casting, blood spatter, indoor and outdoor crime scene investigation and biological profiling.

Camp attendees will learn in a collaborative setting from professionals who are currently employed, or teaching in, the exciting field of forensic science.

The following week, July 27-31, Mercyhurst geologist Scott McKenzie will take his middle- and high-school-age campers to a private cave in Westmoreland County, where they will delve into the earth’s interior in search of fossils. They’ll also go fossil hunting at a quarry operated by the Hamburg, NY, Natural History Society, and visit several area beaches, including Presque Isle, where they will study beach processes, like sand movement and water currents.

Beyond the field explorations, McKenzie will also take his junior geologists to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

“They will touch pieces of an asteroid that has fallen to the earth; hold a moon rock; dig up fossils they can keep … they are going to have a whale of a time,” McKenzie said.