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Western Colorado's Selective University

The Decomposition of Human Remains

When: TBA
Where: Forensic Investigation Research Station, Colorado Mesa University, 950 Coffman Road, Whitewater, CO
Who: law enforcement, coroners, coroner's deputies
Cost: TBA

This course introduces the participant to the variation in the decomposition of human remains. The FIRS facility includes an outdoor decomposition research center where pig remains will be used to show the variation discussed. The course is designed to assist the participant in understanding what can be determined from the condition of a decomposed or skeletal body about the post-mortem interval or about what happened to a participant after death. Lectures and hands-on activities are used teach participants about current research in the field. The course will include an overview of the decomposition process from death to skeletonization. The majority of the course will focus on the confounding factors that create change in the decomposition process. This includes pre-existing biological conditions in the individual, differences in the environment of the deceased, peri-mortem injuries, and their impact on the interpretation of the post-mortem interval and cause and manner of death determinations.
Participants will watch and take part in a pig autopsy to examine the macroscopic and microscopic anatomic changes after death. Participants will also examine pig remains in the FIRS outdoor decomposition research facility. They will learn to score remains using the Total Body Score and to correlate the score with the ambient temperature.

For registration information please contact Melissa Connor, Director of the Forensic Investigation Research Station, at 970.248.1219 or



  • Introductions and Administration
  • The hypothetical
    • Models of taphonomy
    • Immediate post-mortem decomposition
      • Exercise - Pig autopsy
    • Advanced decomposition to stabilization
      • Exercise - Classifying stages of decay


  • Confounding factors that occur in realty
    • Preexisting conditions
    • Perimortem conditions
      • Trauma
      • Clothing and ligatures
      • COD
  • Exercise - Examine remains in outdoor facility
    • Environmental
      • Surface
        • Scavenging - Vertebrate (inc. avian), invertebrate
      • Gravity
      • Burial
      • Water
      • Fire
      • Landfills/ Dumps
  • Closing Remarks
  • Pass out certificates