Forensic anthropologist Gillian Fowler has worked in some of the most dark and dangerous places in the world.
She spent six years in Guatemala, seeking justice for the victims of human rights abuses perpetrated in the brutal, 36-year civil war. Thousands of innocent people, including many women and children, were caught up in the conflict between the military government and guerrilla fighters.
Gillian began her work there as a volunteer but rose to become laboratory co-ordinator for the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG). The FAFG was regularly called upon to exhume newly-discovered mass graves for the Guatemalan prosecutor’s office. It also worked on modern criminal cases and identification of victims of natural disasters.
The laboratory was never short of cases, handling more than 50 a month. Although the civil war ended officially in 1996, Guatemala is currently plagued by a new violence in the form of organised crime run by drug cartels and has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Gillian left Guatemala to join the University as a lecturer in July 2010.
She still works as a consultant for international human rights organisations, and recently spent six weeks in Afghanistan on a project to teach Afghan nationals the techniques needed to find and exhume mass graves, identify victims and preserve evidence for prosecutions.