LARAMIE, Wyo. — When Wyoming game wardens want to prosecute wildlife crimes, they make a case using evidence such as gut piles, carcasses, antlers and blood samples.
At their disposal, turning the raw materials of a crime scene into information about what happened, is the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Forensics Laboratory.
Inside the lab, located on the University of Wyoming campus, forensic analyst Tasha Bauman uses a host of sophisticated instruments to identify species, discern their gender and figure out how many animals are represented. Such information can link suspects and victims at a crime scene and be used to reconstruct the narrative of a crime.
“They build the case, and we do the testing they request,” Bauman told the Laramie Boomerang (http://bit.ly/2cq8RXm).
For her work in the lab, Bauman was recently named the Services Division Employee of the Year for Game and Fish. The department is divided into four divisions — wildlife, fish, physical and services. Bauman was honored at a commission meeting in July in Pinedale.
Bauman, who grew up in Lyman, approached the end of her studies at the University of Wyoming expecting to enter a career in human forensics.
An internship at the Game and Fish lab in 2005 changed that.
“I interned with the lab my senior year as an undergrad and just loved it,” she said.
She discovered a passion for the methodical nature of laboratory work and loved the process of taking a sample all the way through a process of identification and connection.
“I had no idea wildlife forensics existed,” she said.
Bauman continued working at the lab as the tooth aging coordinator after completing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and criminal justice. She then completed a master’s degree in forensics science with a focus on DNA/genetics from the University of California and was promoted to forensic analyst in 2009.
She’s a certified wildlife forensic scientist through the Society for Wildlife Forensic Science, and she’s court qualified to testify as a wildlife forensic expert in the state of Montana.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Forensics Laboratory is unique in what it can sample. Bauman can identify 18 different species, including all big game animals in Wyoming. She can also identify the gender, match samples and figure out how many individual animals are represented in a sample.
“We do a large number of species that other states don’t have,” she said.
When Bauman accepts a sample from a law enforcement officer, she doesn’t learn anything about the case, so she’s not invested in the outcome. Her concern is preparing samples for testing and following the process all the way through until she analyzes the result.
“For me, it’s exciting to have a result to report back,” she said.
Ultimately, her focus is using science to arrive at the truth.
“It’s rewarding to see that you do a good job,” she said.
Dee Dee Hawk, lab director, praised Bauman’s attitude.
“She truly strives to increase the tools and skills to become a better employee, a better scientist and a better leader,” she said.
Scot Kofron, services division chief for Game and Fish, said Bauman was a valuable employee for the department.
“She is an essential component of the international wildlife forensic community as well as the Laramie community,” he said.
Bauman said it was humbling to be recognized for her work, especially because of its behind-the-scenes nature.
“I feel like I’m in my own little hamlet in the lab, so I didn’t realize that other people were taking recognition of that,” she said.
Information from: Laramie Boomerang, http://www.laramieboomerang.com