Forensic Lab Services
The primary function of the WFL is to conduct forensic analyses on physical evidence in criminal cases, civil cases, and public safety incidents involving wildlife. Depending on the type of sample and the analyses required, the WFL may perform a combination of serological, morphological and DNA testing. Biological samples submitted for testing include blood, tissue, hair, scat, saliva, hide, claw, feather, or ivory. The forensic analyses of such samples have directly assisted with field operations, justified search warrants, and helped prosecute poachers and other wildlife violators. The WFL staff provide legally admissible reports and expert testimony regarding investigation findings.
Most cases submitted to the WFL involve the use of DNA to determine the species, sex, and/or number of individual animals represented by case samples. The WFL also conducts morphological analyses on ivory samples to identify the species of origin and authenticity. During public safety wildlife incidents, the WFL uses DNA-based techniques to identify the offending wild animal.
The WFL provides a variety of services to CDFW Wildlife Officers, including the following:
DNA Individualization (matching/exclusion)
- Black Bear
- Mountain Lion
Forensic Lab Staff
Erin Meredith, BSc., MSc., Senior Wildlife Forensic Specialist
Public Safety, Population Genetics, and Individual Identification
Erin Meredith is a Senior Wildlife Forensic Specialist. She joined CDFW as a Scientific Aid under the guidance of James Banks in 1999 while completing her BSc. and MSc. degrees in Genetics at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Erin aided in transitioning the WFL to DNA-based methods for individual identification in a variety of wildlife species. This work included the development and optimization of tetranucleotide short tandem repeat (STR) markers for California’s deer, elk, black bear, and mountain lions. Her thesis research focused on the creation and utilization of multiplexed forensic quality STR panels for casework and population genetic study of California’s elk subspecies. Guiding the evolution of each species’ specific genetic markers from their original development to their present status has been a career-long endeavor. Several of these panels have been adopted in other wildlife forensic laboratories across the US, with the aim of standardization and improved data sharing.
Erin’s casework focuses on public safety wildlife investigations and individual identification of native species (deer, elk, black bear, mountain lion, coyotes, and wolves). She is a member of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) - Wildlife Forensic Subcommittee, the Society for Wildlife Forensic Science (SWFS), and is an inductee to Phi Beta Kappa.
Ashley Spicer, BSc., MSc., Senior Wildlife Forensic Specialist
Ivory, Trafficking, and Species Identification
Ashley Spicer is a Senior Wildlife Forensic Specialist. Prior to joining CDFW in 2012, Ashley worked in molecular biology and biomedical research laboratories conducting projects on assay development, species identification, population genetics, and evolutionary studies. She earned a BSc. in Biochemistry from the University of Victoria (UVic) in British Columbia and an MSc. in Forensic Science from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Her thesis research was conducted at the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Forensic Unit with a focus on determining the frequency of mitochondrial heteroplasmy present in canine biological samples such as hair, blood, and saliva to assist with forensic interpretations of similar biological samples obtained from crime scenes.
Ashley brought her experience with species identification and sequencing technologies to CDFW and has incorporated forensic DNA methodologies to taxonomically identify birds, reptiles, sharks, fish, invertebrates, and mammalian species in casework. She works closely to support the Wildlife Officers with forensic techniques to identify trafficked wildlife materials (native and non-native) and has testified as an expert witness in ivory identification.
Ashley serves on the Proficiency Test Board for the Society for Wildlife Forensic Science (SWFS) and as the Executive Secretary for the Wildlife Forensic Subcommittee within the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science.
Jillian Adkins, BSc., MSc., Wildlife Forensic Specialist
Jillian Adkins joined CDFW as a Scientific Aid in 2014 and was hired as a Wildlife Forensic Specialist in 2016. She received a BSc. in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Microbiology and a minor in Chemistry followed by a MSc. in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Cellular and Molecular Biology from California State University, Sacramento. Her thesis research utilized high-throughput sequencing on Illumina’s MiSeq platform, and this project continues as an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Ami Bhatt’s laboratory at Stanford University.
Jillian’s casework focuses primarily on public safety wildlife investigations and individual identification of native species (deer, elk, black bear, mountain lion, coyotes, and wolves). She is a member of the American Society of Microbiology, the Wildlife Society, and an affiliate member of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) – Wildlife Forensic Subcommittee.
Kelly Carrothers, BSc., MSc., Wildlife Forensic Specialist
Kelly Carrothers is a Wildlife Forensic Specialist. She graduated from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) with a BSc. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and an MSc. in Forensic Science. While at UC Davis, Kelly focused on forensic DNA analysis, with an emphasis on the population genetics of Native Americans in North America to improve Random Match Probability calculations in forensic casework. After graduating, she worked as a Research Associate at the UC Davis School of Medicine before being hired at CDFW in 2016. She is currently a member of the California Association of Criminalists (CAC) and dedicates most of her time to mitochondrial DNA analysis related to ivory and wildlife trafficking.
Joy Gaines, BSc., Scientific Aid
Joy Gaines joined CDFW as a Scientific Aid in 2019. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a BSc. in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. At CDFW, she performs research, assists with database management and quality control, and assists the Wildlife Forensic Specialists. Joy is planning to begin graduate school in 2020 to pursue a master’s degree in Biological Sciences.
Mark McLellan, BSc., Scientific Aid
Mark McLellan joined CDFW as a Scientific Aid in 2019. He is in the MSc. in Forensic Science program at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) conducting thesis research in forensic entomology and is projected to graduate in 2020. Mark also works as a Lab Technician II at the Forensic Science DNA Laboratory at UC Davis. He received a BSc. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a minor in Forensic Entomology from UC Davis, and an A.S. in Fire Science from the Community College of the Air Force. Mark is a member of the United States Air Force Reserves and serves as a Crew Chief/Emergency Medical Responder with the Travis AFB Fire Department. He is affiliated with the San Luis Obispo Fire Death Investigation Strike Team (SLOFIST) as assistant proctor for the Forensic Fire Death Investigation Course (FFDIC) and is a member of the California Academy of Criminalists (CAC). Mark has presented at the 74th Annual Meeting of the North Central Branch of the Entomological Society of America and at the 2019 North American Forensic Entomology Association.