Honors Senior Theses/Projects
The Challenges and Prospects of Using Forensic Body Farms as a Forensic Science Tool in Oregon
Date of Award
Undergraduate Honors Thesis/Project
Dr. Pete Poston
Honors Program Director
Dr. Gavin Keulks
Despite what others may think, people still do have a way of speaking after their death, and often they have a lot to say; it just takes special people with the patience and training to hear them. What are they trying to tell us? That all depends on the environment they are in and how they got there. Even when a human is unable to speak anymore, they can still give information to scientists such as how long they have been dead or what could have caused their death. Just like how different crops grow in different environments, organic material decomposes in different ways in varying environments; in this case, the organic material will be cadavers. Currently, scientists are studying the decomposition process of cadavers that have been generously donated to science in a variety of environments. Scientists who study this type of decomposition do so at locations known as forensic “Body Farms” or Forensic Anthropology facilities. Many different environments can be observed at forensic body farms such as cadavers partially submerged in water, encased in concrete, or fully exposed to the elements. They also have cadavers that have been autopsied and not autopsied in order to explore all variables. The eight locations in the United States are spread out across the Eastern and Central portions of the continent, meaning that there is no location in the Western part of the continent. The closest location to the Western part of the continent is the Forensic 6 Investigation Research Station located in Grand Junction, Colorado. Even then, it is still roughly 1,020 miles away from San Francisco, California (Map Data), 1.050 miles away from Portland, Oregon (Map Data), and 1,110 miles from Seattle, Washington (Map Data). An ideal location for a “Body Farm” would have a diverse climate and be located in a location that is easy enough to access for those that need to access it but also secluded enough to not be interfered with by other people. Oregon has a very diverse climate that would expose the subjects of a forensic body farm to different elements that they would not be exposed to on the Eastern side of the United States. Such as different temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind, other climatic factors and more. My main goal for this project is to explain to readers the opportunities that opening a forensic body farm could become within reach for the scientific, law enforcement, and other communities. If one was to be opened in Oregon, it would be the only forensic body farm located on the West side of the Rocky Mountains. Along with providing general knowledge of what a forensic body farm is, I want to identify the stigma that surrounds “Body Farms” and explain how despite the challenges that can be faced it would be valuable if a location was created in Oregon. To combat the poor picture that comes to mind when the words are brought up, people need to understand that things decompose 7 differently in varied environments and see the facility as a scientific need. The cadavers donated to forensic body farms cannot be seen as people, they need to be seen as scientific tools. I want to address any concerns that may arise from a project such as this and explain ways of handling them constructively to help people understand the uses of “Body Farms.” Decomposition is not something that should be thought of as the “end” for the remains of a human after death, information can still be obtained from said decomposition and be valuable to fields of research that are beneficial for the future.
Bishop, Delaney N., "The Challenges and Prospects of Using Forensic Body Farms as a Forensic Science Tool in Oregon" (2022). Honors Senior Theses/Projects. 271.