Students dig forensics short courses

Short courses

Cutting-edge methods in locating, recovering and interpreting human remains from outdoor contexts characterize the 22nd Annual Death-Scene Archaeology Short Course, one of four niche programs offered this summer by the Mercyhurst University Department of Applied Forensic Sciences. The five-day session runs June 3-7 on the Erie campus.

Lectures and mock outdoor crime scenes will be used to describe how investigators can best document and recover physical evidence, including human remains, from a variety of outdoor settings.

Department Chair Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D., said the series is intended for students as well as professionals in forensic science and related fields seeking to update and perfect their skills. As in previous years, the popular courses draw participants from all over the world. This year's group comes from South Africa, Korea, Spain, the UK and Canada as well as U.S. states from Connecticut to California. 

Courses are led by experts in their respective fields, including Dirkmaat, who specializes in the archaeological recovery of human remains; Steven Symes, Ph.D., whose specialty is bone trauma; and Steve Ousley, Ph.D., who is best known for co-authoring FORDISC, a computer program that aids in the identification of unknown human remains using various statistical methods.

The following week, June 10-14, the series continues with a short course on Laboratory Methods in the Identification of Human Skeletal Remains, now in its 13th year. The emphasis will be on personal identification through statistical estimations of age, sex, ancestry and stature as well as personalizing features.

The 10th Annual Analysis of Bone Trauma and Pseudo-Trauma in Suspected Violent Deaths is June 17-21 and will focus on differentiating ante-, peri- and postmortem trauma to bone from autopsy through biomechanical interpretations in the lab.

Rounding out the series is the 10th Annual Recovery and Interpretation of the Fatal Fire Scene June 24-28. The program exposes students to the intricacies of processing a large-scale mock fire scene, from effective search strategies to temporary morgue setups, using newly developed protocols.

For more information on the annual short courses, contact Dirkmaat at

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