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The Forensic Investigation Research Station (FIRS)

The FIRS focuses on world-class education and research in forensic science, anthropology, biology, entomology and criminal justice. The facilities that make this possible in uniquely Colorado environments.

FIRS - Outdoor Research Facility -Bodies of Knowledge

Separated from the rest of the world by a chain link fence covered in hardware cloth and topped with razor wire, the outdoor facility consists of approximately two acres of desert inhabited by a prairie dog colony. Human donations are placed here, screened from the rest of the world, and left to decay. 

The first of its kind in an arid environment, FIRS opened in 2012 when pigs were placed at the site. The first human donation was in 2013. Since then, over 90 bodies have been donated and added to the research. The area is a resource for students, researchers, law enforcement, and coroners to study the unique properties of human decomposition in an arid environment.

FIRS - The indoor facility

The indoor facility is critical to research, processing and training. The building includes a modern autopsy suite modified for maceration and a three-person morgue cooler. The classroom and dry lab is fitted with modern microscopes for osteological and entomological analysis, osteometric equipment, computers for student use, and tables in a mobile, modular format. A small room is used for the storage of the FIRS Donated Human Skeletal Collection.

FIRS - The Back 40 (TB40) - Research with Altitude

TB40 is a forty acre plot gifted to Colorado Mesa University by Park County Colorado to assist with research in high-altitude decomposition. TB40 is in an intermountain basin, South Park, at an altitude of approximately 9600 ft above mean sea level. Park County Coroner, David Kintz, among others, realized that what they saw at high altitude differed significantly from the decomposition trajectory that was in the literature. 

TB40 opened in 2018 when pigs were placed at the site. A doctoral student, Christiane Baigent, will be using TB40 for her dissertation. Other research comparing the entomology and decomposition trajectory to those seen at FIRS has also begun. The Park County Coroner's Office partner with CMU at TB40 and a true practitioner/academic partnership is established.

The FIRS Donated Human Skeletal Collection

The Donated Human Skeletal Collection was established in 2015 as remains from the outdoor facility began to be processed. As remains are removed from the Outdoor Facility and process, they are added to the Donated Human Skeletal Collection. In early 2019, 36 modern human skeletons were in the collection. More are added each year. These are used for educational purposes, training anthropologists, biologists, and health science practitioner.

The pathologies and trauma seen on the skeletons reflect a modern Colorado population and are the only such representation of the population. This population reflects the forensic skeletal cases seen in Colorado and Utah and thus are critical in analyzing found skeletons.


The Crime Scene House

The Crime Scene House is a bungalow near the main campus of Colorado Mesa University. The rooms are used as a blank canvas to stage every imaginable crime as training for CMU students, the Grand Junction Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) academy, and Grand Junction Police Department.