There is a place where donated bodies are studied by forensics scientists. They study what happens to a body when it is left to decompose outside. These places are called anthropology research facilities or body farms. There are a total of 6 body farms in the US. There is one in the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, one in Western Carolina University, two in Texas State University in San Marcos and Sam Houston State University in Huntsville and two in Colorado, one in Mesa State University and another in Fairplay.
Mesa State University started off with just one body farm next to the Mesa County Landfill. It was a great opportunity for the school to be able to improve their forensics science program at the school and help law enforcement.
The students at Mesa University can get experience in the field while also helping to make important discoveries on the decomposition of the bodies. The farm is set up so that the students and forensics scientists can study how the high alpine conditions would affect the decomposition of bodies. This would help law enforcement and forensics scientists to be able to identify when the person died, how long they have been dead and countless other things.
The deceased can either donate their body to the college to be studied after they die or their family can donate them after they have died. Once the bodies are close to or fully decomposed their bones are extracted from the area and sent to be cleaned and put in Mesa’s bone collection. This way they can be studied later on as well.
The body farm went so well that Mesa University decided to open another farm up in the high mountains of Fairplay, Colorado. Here they could still study how the harsh environment and climate would affect the bodies.
Fairplay Corner David Kintz said, “In 2017 we managed to procure 40 acers of land. We were ecstatic that we could conduct research that had never been done at high altitude or in a mountainous region. In the summer of 2018 we started research with pigs and that research was done to determine the basics of the area. What scavengers were there, that kind of stuff. Then in the summer of 2020 is when we began using human remains. At the moment we have seven bodies there.”
“Being able to come to the body farm and being able to work on the research is a great experience for people who want to get into this field of any kind. CMU has interns that they put through the program to do this and it’s great to tell, first of all, if they are going to stay in the field, the knowledge is just second to none. But it also tells them, pretty quickly if this is for them or not and gives them a good idea of which direction they should go in the future.”
One question that lots of people most likely have is how they get the bodies. Kintz shared that, “The descendents all either sign up while they are still alive to be donors or their families donate them after death. We have some donors from park county residents and some donors from other counties around the state as well as one from out of state.”
Some people here the word body farm it makes them cringe. But it really is a cool thing that contributes a lot with helping solve homicide cases and lots of other cases that law enforcement has had a hard time with in the past.
Since they go to the farm every day either for a short amount of time or all day, they have found numerous new things that they didn’t know about before. They have found different mutations in the average flies that you see everyday that makes it so they can live in such a harsh, cold climate.
The body farms can come off sounding morbid and weird, but if you dig deeper, and get a good look inside of the whole thing, you can discover that they are really cool. If you can have the opportunity to go to a school that has one like CMU and want to study in the field of forensics, you can have the opportunity to go to a body farm and study the things that happen there. Giving experience that not a lot of people get to have.