Burial Research Group - Human Taphonomic Studies



The Burial Research Group - Human Taphonomic Studies undertake forensic investigations into human decomposition to better understand, forensic, environmental and health related questions.

Our aim

The work of the Groups involves:

  • developing new techniques and identify good practice in the location of missing persons in terrestrial and aquatic environments and
  • use the technologies to assist with environmental monitoring of pollutants

10 + outcomes from the work as part of the Burial Research Group

  1. Identified that chemicals can be detected in the soil and in water that may suggest the presence of a body
  2. Identified that a specific group of bioamines are of interest and different to the plethora of other chemicals some other researchers have remarked upon
  3. Identified that these chemicals are present for some time – over a decade or more in the soil making them useful markers for long terms burials
  4. Active members of national advisory team working with the Home Office and now UK Govt directly via DSTL as well as with Police Services in the UK to look at materials of interest and soils from recovered grave sites to confirm the experiments and research question by using real world soil samples
  5. Brought in an Honorary Research fellow in the School to develop his Canine doctrine on training and a better understanding of the science behind what dogs can sniff, identify, and detect
  6. Identified a better model for student research projects structures using the Hub and Spoke model to offer peer-peer mentoring as well as looking at the problems for several different angles at once.
  7. Published collaboratively - numerous Journal articles in the top peer reviewed journals of this area bringing this new knowledge to the academic and practitioner world.
  8. Presented or had our students present three different occasions at the Houses of Parliament (Posters in Parliament) the research created form the Burial Research work
  9. Won prizes for the work (BAHID, GradeX 2017)
  10. Had our first European intern student work through from his undergraduate projects to submit his PhD
  11. Created a new system for evaluating body decomposition (the Body Aquatic Decomposition Score ) – using the murine (Mouse) model which appears I the early days of this work to a better scoring system alongside using chemical analysis rather than a visual subjective measure of decomposition.
  12. Identified fluorescence from decomposing tissue using a dual beam LED and also a laser light source – work ongoing for use in the locating bodies in water.

Researchers within Burial Research Group - Human Taphonomic Studies

Dr Alison Davidson

Technical Specialist-Analytical Chemistr

I work in the University’s Analytical Methods Laboratory maintaining a wide range of analytical instrumentation, facilitating the teaching of analytical chemistry and working with researchers.

Alison's profile

Simon Cooper

Technical Specialist-Analytical Science

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