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Potential carcass enrichment of the University of Tennessee Anthropology Research Facility: A baseline survey of edaphic features

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International Volume: 222 Dated: 2012 Pages: 4-10
Date Published
7 pages

Since the authors are interested in the long-term effects of continuous human decomposition on the soil environment, soil samples collected from within and outside the University of Tennessee Anthropology Research Facility (ARF) were evaluated for moisture content, pH, organic content, total carbon and nitrogen content, and biomass by lipid-bound phosphorus, and total extracted DNA.


The University of Tennessee Anthropology Research Facility (ARF) is known for its unique contribution to forensic science as a site of human decomposition research. Studies conducted at ARF are integral in understanding of the processes of human decomposition. Current analyses revealed no significant differences (p < 0.05) among the sampled areas within the facility, and yet demonstrated a possible trend toward increased levels of total N, Lipid-P, and water, suggesting an influx of high-quality nutrients into the ARF soil. Furthermore, elevated pH readings, presumably resulting from ammonification of the soil, were observed in areas of high decomposition. The negative control samples proved significantly different from nearly all samples collected within the facility, the exceptions being total carbon content and extractable DNA. These findings indicate that although landscape samples inside may be similar to themselves, they are dissimilar to those taken in a similar temperate forest biome with no recorded history of human decomposition. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2012