A question that I am frequently asked is how does a field researcher collect evidence. More specifically, what are the tools used and where a person would get access to these tools? Simple and basic laboratory type gear is not off limits to the public and is inexpensive to acquire. Depending on where you choose to purchase the items, your evidence kit could be as inexpensive as $20. That is a bargain to people like me! Here is a list of the basics you will need to be effective:
- Gloves: Buy latex or the vinyl nitrile variety if you are sensitive to latex. Gloves serve two purposes. Besides protecting you from potentially harmful substances such as blood or other bodily fluids, gloves also minimize the chance of contaminating the sample.
- Tweezers: metal tweezers are the best. They are durable; I have been using the same pair since 1995. Metal is easy to clean and then sterilize. I think you know, but just in case, you use the tweezers for sample collections.
- Swabs: Q-Tips™ will work, but they are not sterile and could botch things up. The best choice is the sterile type with the wooden shafts. These are for wet and dry sample collection. For wet samples like blood or urine, you rub the swab directly in the sample. For dry samples such as dried blood, you first wet the swab with purified water, and then apply the swab to the sample.
- Purified water: Use the water in conjunction with the swabs as described above to collect samples of fluids or dried fluids.
- Evidence bags: Acid free paper envelopes or bags are the best. The idea behind using paper is that if there is any moisture on the sample, the sample can still dry, thus preventing the acceleration of decay or mold growth from bacteria that may be present. You could use plastic bags for this if you placed the bagged sample in the freezer as soon as possible. Freezing the sample retards decay just like freezing food makes it last longer.
- Pen with permanent ink: at the minimum, all of the samples should be labeled with the date the sample was obtained.
So there you have it. That is the basic list of the tools will you need to create your own evidence collection kit. In a future post, I will discuss more about collecting, maintaining sample integrity as well as a better and more thorough way of documenting your finds. Godspeed loyal readers.