Melanie S Archer

Monash University (Australia), Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Publications (9)18.91 Total impact

  • Kelly A. George · Melanie S. Archer · Tes Toop ·
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    ABSTRACT: This study explored the molecular mechanisms potentially underlying blow fly nocturnal oviposition. A behavioral study revealed that Calliphora vicina (Robineau-Desvoidy) (Diptera: Calliphoridae) possesses a diel rhythm of oviposition in light under 12:12 light/dark conditions. Reversal to 12:12 dark/light resulted in oviposition behavior changing to align with the adjusted regime in most females, but four of 59 experimental females lacked a diel rhythm of oviposition (were arrhythmic). Real-time PCR was used to monitor the molecular expression levels of known circadian genes per and tim in C. vicina to determine whether gene expression and behavior correlated. As with behavior, reversing light/dark conditions changed rhythmic gene expression to align with an adjusted light regime. This suggests that although it is unlikely that C. vicina will colonize dead bodies at night, arrhythmic females and oviposition in the dark was demonstrated.
    Journal of Forensic Sciences 08/2014; 60(s1). DOI:10.1111/1556-4029.12585 · 1.16 Impact Factor
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    Kelly A George · Melanie S Archer · Tes Toop ·
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    ABSTRACT: The accuracy of minimum post-mortem interval (mPMI) estimates usually hinges upon the ability of forensic entomologists to predict the conditions under which calliphorids will colonise bodies. However, there can be delays between death and colonisation due to poorly understood abiotic and biotic factors, hence the need for a mPMI. To quantify the importance of various meteorological and light-level factors, beef liver baits were placed in the field (Victoria, Australia) on 88 randomly selected days over 3 years in all seasons and observed every 60-90min for evidence of colonisation. Baits were exposed during daylight, and the following parameters were measured: barometric pressure, light intensity, wind speed, ambient temperature, relative humidity and rainfall. Collected data were analysed using backward LR logistic regression to produce an equation of colonisation probability. This type of analysis removes factors with the least influence on colonisation in successive steps until all remaining variables significantly increase the accuracy of predicting colonisation presence or absence. Ambient temperature was a positive predictor variable (an increase in temperature increased the probability of calliphorid colonisation). Relative humidity was a negative predictor variable (an increase in humidity decreased the probability of calliphorid colonisation). Barometric pressure, light intensity, wind speed and rainfall did not enhance the accuracy of the probability model; however, analysis of species activity patterns suggests that heavy rainfall and strong wind speeds inhibit calliphorid colonisation.
    Forensic science international 06/2013; 229(1-3):100-107. DOI:10.1016/j.forsciint.2013.03.033 · 2.14 Impact Factor
  • Kelly A George · Melanie S Archer · Tes Toop ·
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    ABSTRACT: Worldwide research into nocturnal colonization by blowflies has produced many contradictory findings, prompting investigation specific to southeastern Australia. Initial experiments showed that blowfly colonization begins shortly after sunrise and continues until sunset; nocturnal colonization never occurred. Colonization peaks occurred at mid-morning, midday, and in the hours preceding sunset. In an additional experiment, wild blowflies were captured and placed in cages with colonization medium supplied nocturnally. Colonization occurred on four of five nights, and Calliphora augur (Fabricius) (Diptera: Calliphoridae) was the main species colonizing baits nocturnally. Results suggest that colonization is most likely to occur during warm weather and when flies are able to walk or crawl to bait. In particular, blowflies trapped within a confined space (such as a room or car) with warmer-than-ambient temperature may be stimulated to colonize nearby remains. Entomologists should consider these findings when estimating minimum postmortem interval under these environmental conditions.
    Journal of Forensic Sciences 09/2012; 58(s1). DOI:10.1111/j.1556-4029.2012.02277.x · 1.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A new technique has recently been developed for estimating the volume of maggot masses on deceased persons using post-mortem CT scans. This allows volume to be measured non-invasively and factored into maggot mass temperature calculations for both casework and research. Examination of admission scans also allows exploration of entomological evidence in anatomical areas not usually exposed by autopsy (e.g. nasal cavities and facial sinuses), and before autopsy disrupts the maggot distribution on a body. This paper expands on work already completed by providing the x-ray attenuation coefficient by way of Hounsfield unit (HU) values for various maggot species, maggot masses and human tissue adjacent to masses. Specifically, this study looked at the HU values for four forensically important blowfly larvae: Lucilia cuprina, L. sericata, Calliphora stygia and C. vicina. The Calliphora species had significantly lower HU values than the Lucilia species. This might be explained by histological analysis, which revealed a non-significant trend, suggesting that Calliphora maggots have a higher fat content than the Lucilia maggots. It is apparent that the variation in the x-ray attenuation coefficient usually precludes its use as a tool for delineating the maggot mass from human tissue and that morphology is the dominant method for delineating a mass. This paper also includes three case studies, which reveal different applications for interpreting entomological evidence using post-mortem CT scans.
    Deutsche Zeitschrift für die Gesamte Gerichtliche Medizin 05/2012; 126(5):693-702. DOI:10.1007/s00414-012-0716-4 · 2.71 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There is limited understanding of the actual temperatures that maggots experience during growth. The impact of maggot mass heating on their growth rates cannot be properly factored into maggot growth rate models, thus limiting the accuracy of forensic entomology estimates. One of the major factors contributing to mass heating is the mass size; however, measuring mass volume is problematic as masses quickly become disturbed when probing them to measure their depth and width. Furthermore, many masses are deep within the body cavity and are inaccessible. This study examined the development of a non-invasive means for measuring mass volume using computed tomography (CT) scanning. It was found that CT can be used to visualise and measure the volume of maggot masses, and a series of rules for doing so were established. The level of agreement between mass measurements made by four 'judges' using CT volumetric analysis tools produced excellent reliability (ICC > 0.95). This high level of reliability was maintained when applied to masses of different sizes in experimental cups of meat and natural masses of mixed species on human bodies. Entomological features of mortuary CT scans are now routinely reported in forensic entomology casework in Victoria, Australia, as a result of our work.
    Deutsche Zeitschrift für die Gesamte Gerichtliche Medizin 02/2012; 127(1). DOI:10.1007/s00414-012-0673-y · 2.71 Impact Factor
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    K A George · M S Archer · T Toop ·
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    ABSTRACT: Species colonization patterns on corpses and the frequency of carrion fly oviposition and larviposition are affected by decomposition stage and previous maggot colonization. This study investigated these effects on meat bait colonization by Victorian Diptera of forensic importance. Bait treatments were: 'aged' (aged for 4 days at 22 °C, allowing some decomposition); 'nutrient-depleted' [aged for 4 days at 22 °C with feeding Calliphora vicina (Robineau-Desvoidy) (Diptera: Calliphoridae) larvae]; 'extract' (fresh bait mixed with liquid formed by feeding C. vicina larvae), and 'fresh' (untreated control bait). Statistical analysis (α = 0.05) revealed that colonization frequency differed significantly among treatments (Welch's F(3,18.83) = 4.66, P < 0.05). Post hoc tests showed that fresh and extract baits were colonized extensively throughout the experiment with no significant difference, whereas the colonization of nutrient-depleted baits was significantly lower. This suggests that larval digestive enzymes, larval excreta and cuticular hydrocarbons have less effect on colonizing Diptera than the nutritional content of meat. The colonization of aged baits did not differ significantly from that of fresh, extract or nutrient-depleted baits. A further experiment testing 'very aged' (aged for 8 days at 28 °C), 'larvae-added' (fresh bait with C. vicina larvae added before placement) and 'fresh' (untreated control) baits revealed that very aged baits were colonized significantly less frequently than either fresh or larvae-added baits (Welch's F(2, 6.17) = 17.40, P < 0.05).
    Medical and Veterinary Entomology 11/2011; 26(2):188-93. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2915.2011.00996.x · 2.86 Impact Factor
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    Aidan P Johnson · James F Wallman · Melanie S Archer ·
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    ABSTRACT: This paper expands on Archer (J Forensic Sci 49, 2004, 553), examining additional factors affecting ambient temperature correction of weather station data in forensic entomology. Sixteen hypothetical body discovery sites (BDSs) in Victoria and New South Wales (Australia), both in autumn and in summer, were compared to test whether the accuracy of correlation was affected by (i) length of correlation period; (ii) distance between BDS and weather station; and (iii) periodicity of ambient temperature measurements. The accuracy of correlations in data sets from real Victorian and NSW forensic entomology cases was also examined. Correlations increased weather data accuracy in all experiments, but significant differences in accuracy were found only between periodicity treatments. We found that a >5°C difference between average values of body in situ and correlation period weather station data was predictive of correlations that decreased the accuracy of ambient temperatures estimated using correlation. Practitioners should inspect their weather data sets for such differences.
    Journal of Forensic Sciences 08/2011; 57(1):215-21. DOI:10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01900.x · 1.16 Impact Factor
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    Kelly A George · Melanie S Archer · Lauren M Green · Xavier A Conlan · Tes Toop ·
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    ABSTRACT: Insect specimens collected from decomposing bodies enable forensic entomologists to estimate the minimum post-mortem interval (PMI). Drugs and toxins within a corpse may affect the development rate of insects that feed on them and it is vital to quantify these effects to accurately calculate minimum PMI. This study investigated the effects of morphine on growth rates of the native Australian blowfly, Calliphora stygia (Fabricius) (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Several morphine concentrations were incorporated into pet mince to simulate post-mortem concentrations in morphine, codeine and/or heroin-dosed corpses. There were four treatments for feeding larvae; T 1: control (no morphine); T 2: 2 microg/g morphine; T 3: 10 microg/g morphine; and T 4: 20 microg/g morphine. Ten replicates of 50 larvae were grown at 22 degrees C for each treatment and their development was compared at four comparison intervals; CI 1: 4-day-old larvae; CI 2: 7-day-old larvae; CI 3: pupae; and CI 4: adults. Length and width were measured for larvae and pupae, and costae and tibiae were measured for adults. Additionally, day of pupariation, day of adult eclosion, and survivorship were calculated for each replicate. The continued presence of morphine in meat was qualitatively verified using high-performance liquid chromatography with acidic potassium permanganate chemiluminescence detection. Growth rates of C. stygia fed on morphine-spiked mince did not differ significantly from those fed on control mince for any comparison interval or parameter measured. This suggests that C. stygia is a reliable model to use to accurately age a corpse containing morphine at any of the concentrations investigated.
    Forensic science international 09/2009; 193(1-3):21-5. DOI:10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.08.013 · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    Joshua A Gunn · Cara Shelley · Simon W Lewis · Tes Toop · Melanie Archer ·
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    ABSTRACT: Selective determination of morphine in the larvae of Calliphora stygia (Fabricius) (Diptera: Calliphoridae) using acidic potassium permanganate chemiluminescence detection coupled with flow injection analysis and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is described. Larvae of C. stygia were reared on minced meat substrates that had been spiked with varying concentrations of morphine. Morphine concentrations were chosen to reflect typical levels in human tissues from opiate overdose victims. After maturing on substrates, larvae were analyzed for the presence of morphine using chemiluminescence detection coupled to flow injection analysis and a rapid HPLC method. Analysis of the larval matrix by flow injection analysis with chemiluminescence detection indicated the presence of interferants capable of generating chemiluminescence. A rapid chromatographic separation with a monolithic column allowed selective determination of morphine in larvae using postcolumn chemiluminescence detection. Larvae of C. stygia reared on substrates containing morphine at concentrations of 500 and 1000 ng/g did not sequester morphine at detectable concentrations. Larvae reared on substrates containing morphine concentrations of 2500, 5000, and 10,000 ng/g tested positive for the drug at concentrations of 765, 2720, and 3010 ng/g, respectively.
    Journal of analytical toxicology 11/2006; 30(8):519-23. DOI:10.1093/jat/30.8.519 · 2.86 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

70 Citations
18.91 Total Impact Points


  • 2013
    • Monash University (Australia)
      • Department of Forensic Medicine
      Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 2012
    • Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine
      Victoria Point, Queensland, Australia
  • 2009-2012
    • University of Vic
      Vic, Catalonia, Spain