Just Using Forensic Art and Anthropology for Identification

Just Using Forensic Art and Anthropology for Identification

Original Release Date: September 30, 2022

In episode four of our Applications of Forensic Science for Human Identification season, Just Science sat down with Katharine Pope, a Research Public Health Analyst at RTI International, Dr. Bruce Anderson, a Forensic Anthropologist with the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, and Joe Mullins, an Instructor at the New York Academy of Art, to discuss human identification using forensic anthropology and facial approximations.

From skeletal remains found in the woods to mass casualty events, forensic anthropologists use their knowledge and expertise of biological profile estimation and skeletal trauma analysis to help establish identities for unknown individuals. Forensic artists who are trained in facial approximations use skulls and other identifying information to recreate victims’ faces. Listen along as Katharine, Dr. Anderson, and Joe discuss how their disciplines interact, coordination with various entities to resolve cases, and how to get in touch with local forensic anthropologists and forensic artists.

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (Award #: 15PNIJ-21-GK-02192-MUMU).

Some content in this podcast may be considered sensitive and may evoke emotional responses, or may not be appropriate for younger audiences. 

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Episode Citation

McKay, J., Pope, K., Anderson, B. E., & Mullins, J. (2022, September 30). Just Science. Just Using Forensic Art and Anthropology for Identification. [Audio podcast episode]. The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence.

Guest Biography

Over the last 14 years, Katharine Pope worked as a Forensic Investigator and Anthropologist in Texas, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware medical examiners’ offices and for the Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team (DMORT). Investigating missing and unidentified persons is a top priority in Kat’s career, which began after receiving a 1-year postgraduate fellowship at the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (now called the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) to work as a Casualty Analyst in the WWII Section. She is the Chair for the Society of Forensic Anthropologists (SOFA) Board of Directors and a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). She assisted in the development of the Forensic Anthropology Database for Assessing Methods Accuracy, a community-wide collective resource for case data to observe trends in biological profile estimations and method preferences. She created and implemented continuing education lectures and open forum discussions on topics important to the Forensic Anthropology community, such as ancestry estimation and ethical treatment of human remains. She volunteered with Operation Identification excavating unidentified migrants on the Texas/Mexico border. In her spare time, she studies and teaches effective mental health and wellness structures to support her fellow last responders. 

Bruce E. Anderson is a Forensic Anthropologist with the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner (PCOME), in Tucson, Arizona. Dr Anderson’s principal duties include conducting postmortem forensic anthropology (FA) examinations for the purposes of affecting identification, constructing biological profiles, and describing perimortem trauma. He also spends a considerable amount of time comparing the results of the FA exams to missing person reports, many of which are entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). Because of the high volume of casework due to the many undocumented border crossers (UBCs) that perish while crossing through southern Arizona, Dr. Anderson is also involved with anthropological research ( on these foreign national cases. He received his B.A. degree from Arizona State University and his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Arizona. He is certified as a Diplomate by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA), is a Fellow in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), was a founding board member of the Scientific Working Group in Forensic Anthropology (SWGANTH), and served as the Western U.S. Forensic Anthropologist for the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) NamUs program. 

Joe Mullins is a Senior Forensic Imaging Specialist with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Joe works in the Forensic Services Unit where his duties include age progressing long term missing children, facial approximations of unknown skeletal remains, soft tissue reconstructions, and fugitive updates to assist law enforcement. He has done presentations, workshops, demonstrations, and assists in the training of other Forensic Artists. He has received training from The FBI Academy, University of Oklahoma, and the University of Dundee. His education is in graphic design and fine art. He studied at the Savannah College of Art & Design and has a degree from James Madison University. Joe is a certified Forensic Artist by the International Association for Identification. Joe has been with NCMEC since July 1999. Joe also works with talented students to help solve crimes or answer questions for families with missing relatives as an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University where he teaches graduate students in the Forensic Science Department and as an Instructor at the New York Academy of Art where he teaches a unique Forensic Sculpture course. 

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast episode are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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