Forensic entomology is not for the faint at heart. Hélène LeBlanc, PhD, is routinely sought for her unique expertise to help solve crimes, and improve food safety from farm to table. Fascinated by the knowledge gained from working with highly specialized equipment to analyze insects and arthropods, she is dedicated to exploring their role in advancing forensic science.
World-renowned for her extensive research in establishing accreditation standards, Dr. LeBlanc’s co-authored paper Best Practice in Forensic Entomology – Standards and Guidelines, published in the International Journal of Legal Medicine, validated work in her field.
She joined the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) as an assistant professor in the Faculty of Science in July 2009. By July 2012, she was named Undergraduate Program director of the Forensic Science program, and appointed associate professor in Forensic Science in July 2014. Her research examines the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released during decomposition and analyzes the active compounds that attract insects to the body to determine a more accurate post-mortem interval to better solve crimes and provide closure for families.
She is also using these techniques to develop integrated pest management strategies to ensure food safety from local farms. Dairy cows are persistently bitten by flies, which puts them under stress and significantly reduces their yield. By isolating attractants, she aims to create a safe repellant that can be released near cattle to reduce environmental and economic costs associated with the use of pesticides on farms.
A zealous interest in science, including insects, at a very early age, led her to pathology. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from St. Mary’s University in Halifax in 1998. A fascinating FBI-taught course immersed her in forensic entomology and she received her Master of Science in Forensic Science from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland in 2001 and her Doctorate in Forensic Entomology from the University of Derby in collaboration with Rothamsted Research and the Derbyshire Constabulary, England in 2008.
Dr. LeBlanc is an adjunct professor in the Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate program at Trent University in Peterborough; and an instructor for the Ontario Police College. She also provides training in Forensic Entomology Crime Scene Protocols to the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, and Durham Regional Police Service.
Industry Expertise (5)
Areas of Expertise (5)
UOIT Team Award (professional)
Together with her UOIT Forensic Science Team colleagues, Dr. Leblanc, received the 2015 UOIT Team Award for her contribution to advancing teaching and research in her field.
Adjunct Professor, Trent University (professional)
Appointed faculty in the Environmental and Life Sciences (ENLS) Graduate program.
Instructor, Ontario Police College (OPC) (professional)
Dr. LeBlanc teaches in the following courses at OPC, Death Investigation, Homicide Investigation, and Recovery of Human Remains. Additionally, her expertise is sought on multiple forensic investigations each year.
Forensic Entomology Consultant (professional)
Dr. LeBlanc is a consultant on casework, analyzing entomological evidence and providing a report of her findings to the court. She also provides ongoing training in Forensic Entomology Crime Scene Protocols to law enforcement agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS).
University of Derby: PhD, Philosophy 2008
Forensic Access: Certificates, Forensics 2005
University of Cologne: Certificate, Forensic Entomology 2002
University of Strathclyde: MSc, Forensic Science 2001
Mercyhurst College: Certificate, Forensic Anthropology 1997
Saint Mary's University: BSc (Honours), Biology 1998
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences
- Canadian Society of Forensic Science
- Entomological Society of America
- North American Forensic Entomology Association
- Canadian Identification Society
- European Association of Forensic Entomology
Media Appearances (2)
UOIT Forensic Science program one of two accredited programs in Canada
The Chronicle online
UOIT’s Forensic Science program re-launched its crime scene house at the same time they were accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).
UOIT is the second school to be accredited in Canada along with Laurentian University.
The accreditation is considered “prestigious,” and comes from the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based commission, according to a press release.
UOIT Faculty of Science stages Forensic Science Research Day
Opportunities for hands-on research and practical experiences form a key component of the undergraduate curriculum at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). This approach to student learning helps ensure UOIT students are job-ready upon graduation and prepared to lead and excel in the workplace thanks to their highly developed problem-solving and leadership skills.
Event Appearances (9)
The Role of Volatile Organic Compounds and Their Role in Forensic Entomology
University of Toronto Toronto, Ontario
The Analysis of Volatiles Released from Decomposing Carcasses and Their Effect on Blowflies
International Conference on Criminalistics Ecole National de Police du Quebec, Nicolet, Quebec
Workshop: Field Methods in Forensic Entomology
Ecole National de Police du Quebec, Nicolet, Quebec International Conference on Criminalistics
New Decomposition Stages to Describe Carcass Decomposing in the Partial or Complete Absence of Insects
Annual Meeting of the North American Forensic Entomology Association (NAFEA) Dayton, Ohio
Olfactory Stimuli Associated with Decomposing Vertebrates and Their Role in the Attraction of Blowflies
Entomological Society of America 60th Annual Meeting Knoxville, Tennessee
Analysis of Decomposition Fluid Collected From Carcasses Decomposing in the Presence and Absence of Insects
European Association of Forensic Sciences The Hague, Netherlands
Study of Insect Colonisation Delay in a Closed Vehicle Environment
NAFEA College Station, Texas
Decomposition Study and Arthropod Succession in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada
NAFEA College Station, Texas
Decomposition in a Closed Vehicle Environment in Southern Ontario
American Academy of Forensic Sciences Chicago, Illinois
Research Grants (2)
Olfactory Perception of Insects in Pest Management and Forensic Entomology
NSERC Discovery Grant
4/1/2010-4/1/2015. This research explores volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in two major projects. The first looks at VOCs released during decomposition and analyzes the active compounds that attract insects to the body, to determine a more accurate post-mortem interval. The second project uses these techniques to develop an integrated pest management strategy to ensure food safety from local dairy farms. Dr. LeBlanc uses collected VOCs from local dairy cows to conduct tests on biting flies, subsequently isolating attractants to develop a method for reducing the fly population around cows so fewer pesticides are used.
Development and Validation of Standard Operating Procedures for Measuring Microbial Populations for Estimating a Postmortem Interval
National Institute of Justice
CI. LeBlanc, H. In partnership with Texas A&M University, University of Dayton Ohio, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this research comprised three trials studying a decomposition comparison of humans and pigs using VOCs to determine a more accurate post-mortem interval. The research was conducted at the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (FACTS). Dr. LeBlanc continues to analyze the findings in her lab and publish results to enhance crime scene investigations.
In forensic thanato-chemistry, the understanding of the process of soft tissue decomposition is still limited. A better understanding of the decomposition process and the characterization of the associated volatile organic compounds (VOC) can help to improve the training of victim recovery (VR) canines, which are used to search for trapped victims in natural disasters or to locate corpses during criminal investigations.
Few studies have intentionally examined the decomposition process when insects are excluded and only one known study has been published that has characterized decomposition occurring under this condition. This study proposes new stages of decomposition to describe scenarios involving the partial and complete exclusion of insects.
Insectes, Cadavre & Scène de Crime – Principes et Applications de L’entomologie Médico-Légale, Chapter 7, pp 91-104,
Forensic arthropod succession patterns are known to vary between regions. However, the northern habitats of the globe have been largely left unstudied. Three pig carcasses were studied outdoors in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Adult and immature insects were collected for identification and comparison.
Insects, specifically blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae), are often the first to arrive at the scene of a crime and provide crucial information including post mortem interval and whether the body has been moved from its original location, amongst other useful information.
This work investigates variation in the crawling speed of Protophormia terraenovae larvae (Robineau-Desvoidy) (Diptera Calliphoridae) as a function of body length and ambient temperature. A video-tracking system was used to follow the movement of larvae in an experimental arena, and to estimate their average crawling speed.