A combination of scientific disciplines and techniques are used in environmental profiling - e.g. pedology, biology, sedimentology, and geography. (Wiltshire, n.d.)
Thus, all the scientific disciplines that compliment (or that are used in) environmental science are of use in environmental profiling. The use of chemistry to analyse soil particles in a laboratory for example, can give clues to the source of soil found at a crime scene and can be useful material evidence in solving crimes.
Through the use of biological know how for example, soils from a crime scene may provide materials like insects, amoebae, parasitic worm eggs, and "aquatic organisms like Ostracods and Foraminifera". (Wiltshire, n.d. para. 2.1.2) Certain microscopic plants like diatoms and dinoflagellates may also be found in soil deposited unawares by an offender at a crime scene. These microscopic flora and fauna may not be widespread in location and would thus be only present in restricted areas. An analysis of such material could point investigators to the possible location of an offender.
Wiltshire (n.d.) provides a non-exhaustive inventory of materials that can be useful in environmental profiling. ...
Apart from use such valuable material in building environmental profiles of the crime scene, they also serve as very important evidential material in the building of a case against an offender in the criminal justice system.
It must however be noted that very knowledgeable offenders can use some of these otherwise valuable materials as decoys. An intentional depositing of flora and fauna by an offender can easily sway the direction of the investigation to a wrong target, if the investigators 'bite the offender's bait'.
Also, in situations where an offender is very 'skilful' in the conduct of crime, very little material may be left behind and this may not be very useful for building an environmental profile for the investigation. Environmental profiling thus to some extent, depends on the offender's level of incompetence. The more knowledgeable an offender is concerning forensic techniques of evidence collection, the less likely he/she is to leave enough material behind.
The next segment of the essay considers the various forms of offender profiling.
Though offender/criminal profiling has been popularly attributed to the Behavioural Science Unit (BSU) of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the U.S., its use predates the founding of the FBI itself. Petherick (n.d.) states that the first recorded example of offender profiling in the contemporary sense was conducted in the 1880s by Dr. Thomas Bond, in his analysis of the corpse of Mary Kelly, who was the last victim of 'Jack the Ripper'. Bond wrote that:
"the corner sheet to the right of the woman's head was much cut and saturated with blood, indicating that the face may have been covered with a sheet