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Scientific research is simply a systemic way of collecting data to answer questions. At FIRS, we teach students to ask testable questions and design projects that directly answer the questions. We teach students to determine the probability that their answer is correct, and how to write and orally present their research.

We also welcome researchers from other institutions, and actively collaborate with scholars outside CMU in projects that span multiple disciplines.

All researchers, from CMU and elsewhere, must at all times treat the human remains with respect. Photography is limited to that needed directly to the research as is access to donor information (generally variables such as age, sex, height).



Smith, A (2021). Patterns of striped skunk scavenging on human remains. Journal of Forensic Science

Garcia, S, A Smith, C Baigent, M Connor (2020). The Scavenging Patterns of Feral Cats on Human Remains in an Outdoor Setting. Journal of Forensic Science 65(3): 948-952.

Baigent, C, C Agan, M Connor, ES Hansen (2020). Autopsy as a form of evisceration: Implications for decomposition rate, pattern, and estimation of postmortem interval. Forensic Science International Vol. 306, Jan, 110068.

Connor, MA, C Baigent, ES Hansen (2019). Measuring Desiccation Using Qualitative Changes: A Step Toward Determining Regional Decomposition Sequences. Journal of Forensic Science 64 (4):1004-1011.

Connor, MA, C Baigent, ES Hansen (2017). Testing the Use of Pigs as Human Proxies in Decomposition Studies. Journal of Forensic Science 63(5): 1350-1355.

Hansen, ES, C Baigent, SI Reck, MA Connor. (2017). Bioelectrical Impedance as a Technique for Estimating Postmortem Interval. Journal of Forensic Science 63 (4): 1186-1190.

Dabbs, GR, JA Bytheway and M Connor. (2017) Comparing the Scoring of Human Decomposition from Digital Images to Scoring Using On-site Observations. Journal of Forensic Science 62 (5):1292-1296.

Dabbs, GR, MA Connor, JA Bytheway (2016). Interobserver Reliability of the Total Body Score System for Quantifying Human Decomposition. Journal of Forensic Science 61(2):445-451.

Couse, T, MA Connor (2015) A Comparison of Maceration Techniques for Use in Forensic Skeletal Preparations. Journal of Forensic Investigation. 3(1):6.

Bytheway, JA, MA Connor, G.R. Dabbs, C.A. Johnston, M.Sunkel. 2015. The Ethics and Best Practice of Human Decomposition Facilities in the United States. Forensic Science Policy & Management: An International Journal 6:3-4, 59-68.

Conference Presentations and Student Theses:

Baigent, CI, DE Kintz, MA Connor, GR Dabbs (2020). Coyote Pup Scavenging as Distinct from Adult Behavior: The Potential for Reproductive Patterns to Inform the Estimation of Postmortem Interval. 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Anaheim CA.

Smith, AJ, and MA Connor (2020). The Patterns of Striped Skunk Scavenging on Human Remains. 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Anaheim CA.

Garcia, S, A Smith, C Baigent, M Connor (2019). The Scavenging Patterns of Feral Cats on Human Remains in an Outdoor Setting. 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Baltimore, MD.

Knott, RE (2019). Comparison of adult age estimation methods using a known-age sample. Bachelor's dissertation, Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bradford, UK.

Agan, CJ, C. Baigent, M Connor, and ES Hansen. (2018)  Decomposition Rates: Autopsied vs. Non-autopsied Human Remains. 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Seattle, WA.

Holley, HH (2018). The Environmental Effect of Mummification in Texas and Colorado. Master's thesis, Dept of Anthropology, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX.

Oettel, B (2018). The Relationship Between BMI an Rate of Decomposition as Seen in Human Models in the Western Part of the United States. Senior thesis. Dept. of Anthropology, University of South Dakota.

CMU Student Showcase Presentations:

Robinson, M (2021). Cardiopulmonary Resuscitatin (CPR) Related Trauma to Ribs and Sternum.

Welsh, H. (2021). Differential Weathering and the Behresmeyer Scale.

Mason, L (2020). Impact of Body Mass Index (BMI) on Moist Decomposition in Human Remains. 

Tucker, S (2020). Identification of Fungi Found Growing on Decomposing Human Remains Located in a High Desert Environment. 

Cravens-Camp, M (2019). Investigating Material Culture Items found in Alleged Cremated Remains. 

Garcia, S (2019). The Scavenging Patterns of Feral Cats on Human Remains in an Outdoor Setting.

Lopez, G (2019). Using a metal Detecting Pin Pointer to Locate Inclusions in Cemains.

Garcia, S (2018). Using Infrared Light Photography to Visualize Tattoos on Decomposed Human Remains. 

Worth, B, ES Hansen, and M Connor (2018). Temperature Correction of Bioelectric Impedance Analysis in Forensic Applications. 

Agan, C (2017). Decomposition Rates: Autopsied vs. Non-autopsied Human Remains

Alferos, ME, KL Murphy, MA Connor, ES Hansen, KN White (2017). Investigation of Changing Soil Phosphorous Concentrations Around Decomposing Human Remains via Available Phosphorous Analysis

Garcia, S (2017) Using ALS to Visualize Tattoos on Decomposed Human Remains

Moschetti, H (2017). Comparing Biological to Self-Reported Ancestry in Human Crania

Reck, SI, ES Hansen, and MA Connor (2017). Correlation of Bioelectric Impedance Metrics to Accumulated Degree Days Among Body Segments Using Gel Pad Electrodes.

Reck, S, ES Hansen, MA Connor (2016) Using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis to Estimate Post-Mortem Interval

Bryant, K (2015). Microscopic analysis of Postmortem Root Banding

Couse, T (2015). A Study of the Most Effective Maceration Methods

Heimlich-Bowler, G (2015). Bioelectrical Impedance as a Method of Estimating the Post Mortem Interval. 

Bussell, A (2014). Using the Infrared Thermometer to Predict Decomposition


For Researchers:

Qualified researchers can conduct research at either the Outdoor Research Laboratory or using the FIRS Skeletal Collection. Interested researchers should:

1. Contact the FIRS Director at

2. Complete the Research Request Form and return to the FIRS Director with a research proposal.

3. FIRS staff will review the proposal and inform the principal investigator whether the research is accepted and if any fees will be involved (for instance, for PPE or in association with storage or use of human remains).

4. Upon acceptance, the principal investigator will be asked to complete the confidentiality and waiver forms.

5. Upon completion of the research, FIRS will retain copies of any photographs and will be acknowledged in any presentations or publications resulting from the work.