Though the process of decomposition generally follows a predetermined sequence of events, researchers have found that numerous variables impact on the rate in which a body decays (Ross and Abel, 2011). Temperature, humidity, entomological activity and the method of disposal can all impact the rate of decomposition (Gunn, 2006). According to new research conducted by North Carolina State University, there is a lack of knowledge surrounding the rate of decomposition of infants and juveniles (Ross and Hale, 2018).
It is important to understand the rate and progression of this process because it would provide significant knowledge on determining time of death. Amanda Hale, a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University emphasised the importance of the research as it is widely believed that juvenile remains would decompose far more rapidly due to the considerable differences in body size. However, due to the absence of research it is not known whether these theories are correct.
The goal of this research is to establish a relationship between the body size of a cadaver and the rate of decomposition
- To identify the five stages of cadaver decomposition and score the cadavers using a total body scoring system to determine which stage of decomposition each cadaver is experiencing at numerous intervals during the study
- To compare the rate of decomposition seen between the size populations using the data collected via the total body scoring system
- To determine accurate measurements of the human analogues at numerous intervals during the study using 3D technology
- To calculate and compare the percentage surface area and volume loss of each cadaver to determine the impact body size has on decomposition
Why is this project Important?
According to the Office for National Statistics (2018) the number of homicide victims under the age of 16 had almost doubled in the UK during 2017, giving ample justification as to why research into the impact body size plays on the rate of decomposition is important. Research in this area would provide crucial information to aid in accurately estimating the post-mortem interval and potentially assist in the arrest and conviction of perpetrators.
Research like this could have been influential in high profile cases such as Andrea Atkinson, a six-year-old Canadian girl whose decomposing remains were found in a boiler room in the apartment building where she resided, nine days after she went missing. Due to the warmer temperatures in the boiler room it is likely her body had decomposed at an accelerated rate and would likely have been impossible to identify an accurate post-mortem interval due to the lack of knowledge in this area of study.
It is hopeful that this study will be able to determine a relationship (if any) between body size and the rate in which a cadaver decomposes. A relationship of this sort would aid investigators in forensic cases to accurately determine a post-mortem interval whilst taking into consideration the body size of an individual. Ultimately, a more accurate post-mortem interval estimation will aid in the investigation and potentially assist in the arrest and conviction of perpetrators.
Due to the nature of this study, carcasses will need to be sourced. Each carcass will cost between £50-70 each. To ensure reproducibility, a minimum of three cadavers will be needed for each size population. To avoid any unwanted scavengers wire mesh cages will need to be sourced. Each cage will cost approximately £20 and six are needed. Another cost is an outdoor weather sensor. This sensor is needed so that future researchers can interpret the results in relation to the temperatures they were collected in. For a basic weather sensor the cost is £20. There are also a few other small additional costs such as identification tags etc.
Any and all backings are welcomed and appreciated greatly!
The research will primarily be conducted by Verity Tynan at the DEFRA licenced taphonomic facility at Glyndwr University. However, several volunteers may be utalised to ensure intra-reliability is present when using a total body scoring system to score the cadavers.
Verity Tynan, is a keen student who is currently training in Forensic Science and is currently on track to secure a First Class Honours. She also has training in anthropology of human remains and the acquisition of 3D techniques in the fields of anthropology and archaeology. The next step for Verity is to complete an MRes in Anthropology and Bioarchaeology.
To thank you for your support
£5 – Thank you for your support. You will be able to keep up to date with the research and the results will be shared with you.
£10 – Thank you for your support. You will be able to keep up to date with the research and the results will be shared with you.
£25 – Thank you for your support. You will be able to keep up to date with the research and the results will be shared with you. Additionally, you will receive a pdf of the research paper.
£50 – Thank you for your support. You will be able to keep up to date with the research and the results will be shared with you. Additionally, you will receive a pdf of the research paper and be listed as a funding contributor in the acknowledgements of the paper.
£100 – Thank you for your support. You will be able to keep up to date with the research and the results will be shared with you. Additionally, you will receive a pdf of the research paper and be listed as a funding contributor in the acknowledgements of the paper.
Gunn, A. (2006). Essential Forensic Biology. 1st ed. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, p.18.
Office for National Statistics (2018). Homicide in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics. [online] Office for National Statistics. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/homicideinengla ndandwales/yearendingmarch2017 [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
Ross, A. and Abel, S. (2011). The Juvenile Skeleton in Forensic Abuse Investigations. New York, N.Y.: Springer Science & Business Media, LLC, p.180.
Ross, A. and Hale, A. (2018). Decomposition of juvenile-sized remains: a macro- and microscopic perspective. Forensic Sciences Research, pp.1-10.