An American-style “body farm” will be made available to Australian researchers for the first time to allow them to study decomposing cadavers.
A new secure facility will be built on a patch of land owned by the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). The facility will be set up in an undisclosed location in the Hawkesbury Region on the outskirts of Sydney. It will be the first of its kind outside of the United States, where so-called body farms have been used for decades.
Until now, Australian researchers have had to rely on data from body farms in the US. Forensic experts said they would now be able to conduct local research to assist Australian police investigations.
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The project has been led by Professor Shari Forbes from UTS who studies the scents of decomposing human bodies to assist police officers training cadaver dogs. She said American data had given Australian researchers a picture of how bodies began to degrade over time.
“It’s through their research that we’ve realised the importance of the environment in terms of understanding decomposition processes,” she said.
But Professor Forbes said much of the American data was not relevant to the Australian climate.
“We can’t really extrapolate the data from America, it’s not as useful to police and forensic services here,” she said.
Professor Forbes also used the corpses of pigs to assist her research, but said it was not clear how accurate that data was, either. “At the moment, we’re still not sure that pigs are the best model,” she said.
“This will actually help prove or disprove whether or not pigs can be used as a model of decomposition.
“We’re very fortunate that the people who donate their body to science are giving us an invaluable resource by allowing us to actually conduct this research.”
The important contribution for us will be providing a better insight into ageing a grave but also how to search for a body, how to locate human bodies and how to recover them in a variety of different environments.
“These questions have been very difficult to answer, there’s many variables that are involved,” she said.
She said the development of the new facility would be extremely useful to many different types of researchers studying Taphonomy – the study of remains from the time of death until discovery. The Chief Forensic Scientist at Victoria Police Dr Bryan Found said the research would influence the way crime scenes were studied.
“The important contribution for us will be in such things as providing a better insight into ageing a grave but also how to search for a body, how to locate human bodies and how to recover them in a variety of different environments,” he said.
Work will begin on the new facility in 2015.
Source: ABC News