Australian researchers to set up 'body farm'

Australian forensic experts are setting up a "body farm", which will be used for the first time in Australia to allow them to study decomposing human bodies.

IANS| Updated: Jan 12, 2015, 16:59 PM IST

Sydney: Australian forensic experts are setting up a "body farm", which will be used for the first time in Australia to allow them to study decomposing human bodies.

The facility, which has been used in the US for decades, will be established in a secret location on the outskirts of Sydney and help provide valuable forensic data for Australian police.

Till now, Australian researchers had to rely on data from body farms in the US. However, American environmental conditions are different to Australia.

Shari Forbes from the University of Technology of Sydney (UTS), who is leading the project, said Monday in an email to Xinhua news agency that the new Australian body farm would provide important information about how human bodies degraded in the Australian environment.

"Environmental variables have the greatest impact on the decomposition process and we have always known that decomposition must be studied in our local environment in order to provide accurate information to police and forensic services," Forbes said.

"For this reason, we decided that it is important to have a facility based in Australia so that we could accurately study the impact of an Australian (and specifically Sydney) climate on the decomposition process.

"We are not able to extrapolate data from the United States since their climate is so different to our climate."

Forbes also used the corpses of pigs to assist her research, but said it was not clear how accurate that data was, either.

"Similar to medical schools, people donate their bodies to science and this allows us to conduct research at the facility using cadavers. This is far more accurate than using animal analogues which is the current practice in forensic decomposition research," Forbes said.

Forbes said research conducted at the facility would help to improve current search techniques, which can assist police in locating victim remains.

"The research will also help to improve the methods we use to estimate time since death and identify victims," Forbes said.

"All of these techniques are important in missing persons and homicide investigations as well as disaster victim recovery."