Lesley Chesson

Lesley Chesson
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency · Isotope Program

M.S., Biology

About

89
Publications
30,823
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Introduction
My research interest lies primarily in the forensic applications of stable isotope analysis to answer questions of source. I've used stable isotopes to investigate food adulteration and origin. I've also isotope analysis for commodity authentication. Currently, I'm investigating the application of stable isotopes in forensic anthropology to understand various aspects of human history - diet, origin, travel movement, etc.
Additional affiliations
January 2014 - January 2018
IsoForensics Inc.
Position
  • CEO
January 2011 - December 2013
IsoForensics Inc.
Position
  • Senior Researcher
May 2009 - January 2018
University of Utah
Position
  • Analytical Chemist
Education
August 2006 - April 2009
University of Utah
Field of study
  • Biology
August 1998 - March 2002
Elon University
Field of study
  • Biology

Publications

Publications (89)
Article
Full-text available
Following the reviews of atomic-weight determinations and other cognate data in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021, the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) Commission on Isotopic Abundances and Atomic Weights (CIAAW) reports changes of standard atomic weights. The symbol Ar°(E) was selected for standard atomic weight of an element to d...
Article
This study investigated intraperson skeletal (herein referred to as either “intraperson” or “intraskeletal”) variation in stable isotope ratios for collagen (C and N) and bioapatite (C and O) extracted from 5-6 long bones from 27 modern individuals. The maximum intraperson variation observed for collagen was 0.78‰ for δ¹³Ccoll values and 1.12‰ for...
Article
Here we present a two-part study to assess isotope data comparability between two sample preparation laboratories, based on the concept of Real Interpretative Differences (RID). Inter-laboratory isotopic variability should be evaluated prior to compiling data from different sources. Isotopic variability can result from two main causes: sample prepa...
Article
Stable isotope analysis of postmortem hair is performed in order to make inferences about an individual’s diet and geographic travel history prior to death. During analysis and interpretation, investigators assume that the hair collected from a postmortem environment has not been altered by exposure conditions and that the isotopic “signatures” of...
Article
Building on applications in anthropology, the use of stable isotope ratio analysis of human bone collagen to investigate an individual’s life history is becoming more commonplace in the forensic science community. Careful consideration of the resultant isotope delta (δ) values, particularly in regard to their accuracy and reliability, is paramount...
Article
The Scientific Analysis Directorate of the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is a unique entity within the U.S. Government. This agency currently houses the world's largest, accredited skeletal identification laboratory in the world, in terms of the size of the scientific staff, global mission, and number o...
Article
Stable isotope ratio analysis is becoming an extremely important tool for the forensic investigator. It can be particularly useful in missing persons investigations to help establish an unknown's identity by potentially reconstructing an individual's geolocational history, determining the number of individuals present in a case, and linking/separat...
Article
Since the late 1970s, stable isotope analysis of bone has become a routine method in archaeological science for reconstructing an individual’s life history. There is published guidance for assessing bone quality prior to stable isotope analysis, including measurement of bioapatite molecular structure, collagen yield, and collagen element content. T...
Article
Full-text available
Demonstrating comparability of isotope-delta values between different laboratories by participation in inter-laboratory exercises (ILEs) is a vital component of method validation. Since its inception, the Forensic Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (FIRMS) Network has provided non-accredited ILEs to its members. Provision of an accredited proficiency...
Chapter
Some studies in developing countries, such as in the immense and diverse Brazilian territory, have demonstrated that the nutritional transition phenomenon is also encroaching on rural areas where the subsistence economy is being replaced by the market economy. These studies demonstrate how nutrition transition processes have been established in rec...
Chapter
This chapter presents stable isotope analysis (SIA) results for bone‐tooth pairs from undocumented border crossers (UBC) from Brooks County, Texas. Bone and tooth samples were prepared for SIA, including carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of bone collagen, carbon and oxygen isotope analysis of bone bioapatite and enamel bioapatite, and strontium...
Chapter
In this chapter, the authors lay out basic concepts related to hair and isotope incorporation, as well as known spatial patterns that provide the basis for human provenancing. They consider it is of uttermost importance that researchers considering these analyses understand how hair records the isotopic signals related to diet, drinking water and g...
Chapter
This chapter provides some background and applications of stable isotope analysis in the context of humanitarian forensic science to illustrate the contribution that isotopic profiling can make to an investigation of an unidentified decedent. It also describes a few of the isotopic tools and data resources currently available to forensic investigat...
Article
Before amalgamating published isotope data, comparability should be demonstrated. This paper compares carbon and oxygen isotopic compositions of 30 enamel samples measured by two laboratories. The aims were to see what, if any, isotopic variation was observed, to determine the causes as needed and to correct if possible. Bioapatite was acidified at...
Article
Due to its multifunctional and complex role in the honey bee colony functioning and health (construction material allowing food storage, brood rearing, thermoregulation, mediation in chemical and mechanical communication, substrate for pathogens, toxins and waste), Apis mellifera beeswax has been widely studied over the last five decades. This is s...
Article
Full-text available
Isotope analysis has become an increasingly valuable tool in forensic anthropology casework over the past decade. Modern-day isotopic investigations on human remains have integrated the use of multi-isotope profiles (e.g. C, N, O, H, S, Sr, and Pb) as well as isotopic landscapes (“isoscapes”) from multiple body tissues (e.g. teeth, bone, hair, and...
Article
Rationale Strontium isotope ratios (⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr) of hair may be a valuable tool to estimate human provenance. However, the systematics and mechanisms controlling spatial variation in ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr of modern human hair remain unclear. Here, we measure ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr of hair specimens from across the USA to assess the presence of geospatial relationships. Meth...
Article
Full-text available
The heart of forensic science is application of the scientific method and analytical approaches to answer questions central to solving a crime: Who, What, When, Where, and How. Forensic practitioners use fundamentals of chemistry and physics to examine evidence and infer its origin. In this regard, ecological researchers have had a significant impa...
Article
Full-text available
Forensic application of carbon isotope ratio measurements of honey and honey protein to investigate the degree of adulteration with high fructose corn syrup or other C4 plant sugars is well established. These measurements must use methods that exhibit suitable performance criteria, particularly with regard to measurement uncertainty and traceabilit...
Article
Isotope ratio analysis has been shown to discriminate samples of forensic interest and to link many synthesized and natural materials to their precursors when traditional chemical and physical analyses cannot. Successful application of stable isotope analysis to chemicals of interest requires a background of likely variations in stable isotope rati...
Chapter
Here, we discuss a relatively new investigative technique useful for identification of human skeletal remains—forensic isotope analysis. Many elements exist in multiple isotope forms, distinguished by differing numbers of neutrons. Stable isotopes contained within human tissues are related to the isotopes in drinking water and food, which can vary...
Article
Water availability and sustainability in the Western United States is a major flashpoint among expanding communities, growing industries, and productive agricultural lands. This issue came to a head in 2015 in the State of California, when the State mandated a 25% reduction in urban water use following a multi-year drought that significantly deplet...
Article
Rationale: Oxygen isotope ratios (δ(18) O values) of hair largely reflect features of regional hydrology while strontium isotope ratios ((87) Sr/(86) Sr) are thought to reflect bedrock geology; combination of both isotope signatures may provide greater capacity for determining provenance and reconstructing travel history of an organism. To test th...
Chapter
Full-text available
Recent forensic applications of stable isotope analysis (SIA) have demonstrated its value as an investigative tool in the identification of unknown decedents. Stable isotope ratios measured in bones, teeth, hair, and nails provide a record of a person’s dietary preferences, travel history, and residence patterns. Stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur...
Article
Full-text available
Carbon-14 measurements on 231 elephant ivory specimens from 14 large ivory seizures (≥0.5 ton) made between 2002 and 2014 show that most ivory (ca 90%) was derived from animals that had died less than 3 y before ivory was confiscated. This indicates that the assumption of recent elephant death for mortality estimates of African elephants is correct...
Article
Isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) techniques have been used for decades to characterize explosives alongside traditional chemical analyses. We present here a broadly applicable framework for methodologically applying a variety of separation techniques to explosive mixtures and preparing different explosive components for stable isotope analysi...
Article
An improved method for the separation of the components of plastic explosives is described with the goal of stable isotope ratio analysis of each isolated component. The binder and plasticizer of a plastic explosive were extracted into cy-clohexane, leaving the explosive components and other insoluble material. The plasticizers, oils, and additives...
Article
Full-text available
Stable isotopes are being used for forensic science studies, with applications to both natural and manufactured products. In this review we discuss how scientific evidence can be used in the legal context and where the scientific progress of hypothesis revisions can be in tension with the legal expectations of widely used methods for measurements....
Conference Paper
This presentation highlights the application of stable isotope analysis in predicting the region-of-origin of unidentified border crossers found deceased within the United States. Attendees will better understand the applications and limitations of stable isotope analysis as an investigative tool for forensic scientists in identifying foreign natio...
Article
RationaleElemental analyzer systems generate N2 and CO2 for elemental composition and isotope ratio measurements. As quantitative conversion of nitrogen in some materials (i.e., nitrate salts and nitro-organic compounds) is difficult, this study tests a recently published method – thermal decomposition without the addition of O2 – for the analysis...
Article
Stable isotopes are valuable biogeochemical markers for solving problems faced by society today, such as distinguishing authentic from adulterated foods and beverages or tracing the origins of illicit drugs. Hydrogen and oxygen isotopes in water exhibit distinct continental patterns (isoscapes), which provide useful region-of-origin information. We...
Article
High-precision triple oxygen isotope analysis of waters is an emerging tool in hydrological and paleoclimate research. The existing research on 17O-excess in waters includes surveys of meteoric waters and region-specific studies of high-latitude snow and tropical storms. However, a better understanding of the variation in 17O-excess of waters acros...
Article
Full-text available
Environmental factors can significantly affect disease prevalence, including neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression. The ratio of deuterium to protium in water shows substantial geographical variation, which could affect disease susceptibility. Thus the link between deuterium content of water and depression was investigated, both epidemiolog...
Article
Full-text available
In the western United States, the mis-match between public water demands and natural water availability necessitates large inter-basin transfers of water as well as groundwater mining of fossil aquifers. Here, we identify probable situations of non-local water use in both space and time based on isotopic comparisons between tap waters and potential...
Article
We investigated a novel application of stable isotope abundance analysis of nitrogen (15N), carbon (13C), hydrogen (2H), and oxygen (18O) to characterize pen ink. We focused on both ballpoint and gel pen inks. We found that the isotope ratios of ink from pens purchased together in a package were similar and within-package stable isotope ratio varia...
Article
Full-text available
Segmental analysis of hair has been used in diverse fields ranging from forensics to ecology to measure the concentration of substances such as drugs and isotopes. Multiple hairs are typically combined into a bundle for segmental analysis to obtain a high-resolution series of measurements. Individual hair strands cycle through multiple phases of gr...
Article
Full-text available
The application of stable isotope analysis has provided novel approaches for provenancing unidentified human remains from forensic contexts. Stable isotope ratios measured in human tissues provide a record of the foods consumed during life as well as the geographic location where drinking water or food was obtained. This study begins with an overvi...
Article
Analyses of stable isotope ratios of pollen present within complex matrices may be useful in sample provenance or climate change applications. We developed a method for separating pollen from honey and preparing pollen for hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope ratio analysis. The method combined several treatments: ethanol dilution to separate pollen;...
Article
Stable isotope analysis has a lengthy application history in the fields of biology, ecology, and geology but its application in forensic investigations is relatively new. A recent report by the National Research Council on the strength of the forensic sciences in the United States highlighted areas of weakness, including the lack of a tested scient...
Article
The elements of human hair record specific information about an individual's health, diet, and surrounding environment. Strontium isotope ratios of human hair have attracted interest as they potentially record an individual's environment. Yet, separating the external environmental signals from the internal dietary indicators has remained a challeng...
Article
Hydrogen isotope analysis has proven a useful tool to understand region-of-origin of food items and biologic materials. Here its application is extended to compound-specific hydrogen isotope analysis of authentic Apis mellifera beeswax and normal-alkanes in order to elicit geographic information. We found A. mellifera produced a characteristic dist...
Article
Strontium isotope analysis has proven useful in geo-location investigations of organic and inorganic materials and may complement the region-of-origin information provided by hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope analysis. In this study, we analyzed 99 drinking (tap) water samples collected from 95 municipal water systems across the USA to investigate...
Data
Full-text available
Cities where hair samples were collected in Western Europe. (PDF)
Article
Full-text available
Although the globalization of food production is often assumed to result in a homogenization of consumption patterns with a convergence towards a Western style diet, the resources used to make global food products may still be locally produced (glocalization). Stable isotope ratios of human hair can quantify the extent to which residents of industr...
Article
Full-text available
Strontium isotope analysis has proven useful in geo‐location investigations of organic and inorganic materials and may complement the region‐of‐origin information provided by hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope analysis. In this study, we analyzed 99 drinking (tap) water samples collected from 95 municipal water systems across the USA to investigate...
Article
Full-text available
Published datasets of proteinaceous animal tissues suggest that co-variation between amino acid hydrogen (δ²H) and oxygen (δ¹⁸O) isotope ratios is a common feature in systems where isotopic variation is driven by geographic or temporal variation in the δ²H and δ¹⁸O values of environmental water. This has led to the development of models relating ti...
Article
Full-text available
17O-excess is the deviation from the average relationship between δ18O and δ17O values in meteoric waters. This parameter is similar to d-excess in that it is sensitive to relative humidity during evaporation, but unlike d-excess it is largely insensitive to temperature. Therefore, 17O-excess may be used to provide independent information on relati...
Article
The Big Mac®, McDonald’s® signature burger, is a global food served in over 100 countries. We measured carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotope ratios of Big Macs® from twenty-six countries. The δ13C values varied from −25.4‰ to −11.1‰, representing cattle-rearing systems based exclusively on C3 plants, exclusively on C4 plants, or both C3...
Chapter
Tracking the production and movement of foods from farm to fork has become increasingly complex in recent years due to changes in modern food markets, including the globalization of food sources and their distribution. Dietary habits have changed as well, with meals eaten outside of the home representing an ever-increasing fraction of the modern hu...
Article
Full-text available
We present data on the carbon (δ(13)C), nitrogen (δ(15)N) and sulfur (δ(34)S) isotope ratios of human hair collected in the central portions of the USA. These elements are incorporated into hair from the diet and thus provide a record of dietary inputs that may also document geospatial patterns. We detected regional differences in hair δ(34)S value...
Article
Stable isotope analysis is an established method for detecting honey adulteration. We extend its application to include honey and honeycomb region-of-origin assignment using hydrogen (δ2H) and oxygen (δ18O) isotopes. We observed that liquid honey δ2H and δ18O values had the potential to change because of water absorption and H atom exchange between...
Article
Hydrogen (δ(2)H) and oxygen (δ(18)O) stable isotope analysis is useful when tracing the origin of water in beverages, but traditional analytical techniques are limited to pure or extracted waters. We measured the isotopic composition of extracted beverage water using both isotope ratio infrared spectroscopy (IRIS; specifically, wavelength-scanned c...
Article
Full-text available
While isotopes are frequently used as tracers in investigations of disease physiology (i.e., 14C labeled glucose), few studies have examined the impact that disease, and disease-related alterations in metabolism, may have on stable isotope ratios at natural abundance levels. The isotopic composition of body water is heavily influenced by water meta...
Article
Full-text available
This study investigated the impact of purchase location on the stable isotope ratios of beverages by measuring the delta(2)H and delta(18)O values of bottled water, soda, beer, and tap water collected across the contiguous United States. Measured beverage delta(2)H and delta(18)O values generally fit the Global Meteoric Water Line (GMWL), suggestin...
Article
We investigated geographic trends in the isotopic composition of the modern American diet, purchasing paired food items from fast food restaurants and supermarkets across the USA. We observed large ranges in δ2H and δ18O values, suggesting variation in the region-of-origin for beef, wheat, and potatoes. Mean restaurant meal δ2H and δ18O values (−11...
Article
Full-text available
Models of hydrogen and oxygen incorporation in human tissues recognize the impact of geographic location on the isotopic composition of fluid intake, but inputs can include nonlocal beverages, such as milk. Milk and cow drinking water were collected from dairies, and commercially available milk was purchased from supermarkets and fast food restaura...