While Jonathon has been inspired to try out different training techniques with his own dog, a cocker spaniel called Marley, nothing has stuck so far: “My dog is somewhat of a handful… I end up getting taken out for walks rather than the other way around.”
Helping others make connections
Around his PhD, Jonathon is also president of the Forensic Science Society at the University of Leicester. He works alongside the committee to organise events for the forensic science students, giving current undergraduates the opportunity to see where their degree might take them.
“Through my research, I have a lot of contacts on a range of forensics subjects. We invite guest speakers to the university so that current students can find out what’s going on in the wider field.
“I think it’s really important that undergraduates get this opportunity and I think a lot of lecture courses don’t always highlight the importance of networking and keeping up to date with current research. The projects that I’m working on now are a result of my networking – seeing what research is out there and who’s doing what. I really wanted to give that back to the community.
“We recently took a group of first and third year undergraduate students to a conference and it was fantastic to see how engaged they were talking to people in the field. It was really nice to see them get the chance to network, without our direct help, but as a result of our organisation.”
Jonathon is also a member of KENYON International Emergency Services, a crisis management organisation that brings together relevant experts in the case of natural disasters. He can be called out to a disaster, anywhere in the world, as a human identification officer, to help with victim recovery.
Moving the UK forward
Jonathon recently received one of our Researcher Mobility Grants, which give early career researchers funding for a short placement at a different institution to where they’re currently based. They help early stage researchers build links with potential collaborators and enhance the scope of their work. Jonathon spent a month at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), in the centre for forensic science working with the Shari Forbes group. The centre has an associated body farm, so Jonathon can work with human samples. Watch this space for an update on how he got on.
In the future, Jonathon wants to establish his own research group in the area of victim recovery, with different teams of researchers investigating different variables. He sees the Sydney centre as a good model to work towards.
“I want to move the UK forward in victim recovery detection. We’re quite behind in terms of dog training. We need to spend more time looking at, and understanding, all of the fundamental science – we’re often jumping ahead but we need to pause and test the applications of the science in the field.”
Jonathon also feels it’s incredibly important to continue building links with police taskforces, bridging the gap between academic research and work in the field.
“I think the communication between police forces and universities is quite restricted at the moment. Not a lot of researchers get the opportunity to go out there and work with a taskforce. Once I meet a police officer, we always stay in contact and they can talk to me about the project or any problems that they’re facing on a case. It’s all about making sure that communication remains open so they’ve always got that guidance there to support their work.”