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In consultation with local authorities, the Environment Agency and Animal Health, an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the UCLan School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences established the Taphonomic Research in Anthropology: Centre for Experimental Studies (TRACES), in May 2009.

TRACES comprises 13 acres of land and associated facilities across the North West of England and is the first facility in the UK dedicated to the experimental study of forensic taphonomy using animal models. Find out more about the TRACES facility.

Expertise and Subject Areas

The mission of TRACES is to advance research in forensic anthropology and forensic taphonomy, and its application to the legal system and human identification. TRACES conducts basic and applied research in forensic entomology, decomposition processes and forensic genetics (DNA degradation and entomological DNA). Its objectives are to promote education, conduct well designed and controlled experimental taphonony and to encourage collaboration with other institutions and organisations.

TRACES currently conducts experiments in all aspects of decomposition, trauma, forensic entomology, and forensic DNA using animal models. The staff at TRACES are interested in conducting parallel experiments with similar centres elsewhere.

The facility encompasses a 13 acre outdoor research area, indoor work area, a teaching room and office. The centre supports postgraduate research undertaken by students on the MSc Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Genetics courses and by the School's PhD research students. TRACES also welcome external researchers.

The TRACES site, and/or the expertise of its staff, is available for hire by researchers who wish to conduct taphonomic studies concerning case-related questions but lack their own facilities.

Publications and Outputs

Widya, M., Moffatt, C. and T. Simmons 2012
The formation of early stage adipocere in submerged remains: a preliminary experimental study. Journal of Forensic Sciences.


Gruenthal, A., Moffatt, C. and T. Simmons 2011
Differential Decomposition Patterns in Charred Versus Un-Charred Remains. Journal of Forensic Sciences.


Simmons, T., Cross, P., Adlam, R. and Moffatt, C. 2010
The influence of insects on decomposition rate in buried and surface remains. Journal of Forensic Sciences 55(4): 889-892


Bachmann, J. and Simmons, T. 2010
The influence of pre-burial insect access on the Decomposition Rate. Journal of Forensic Sciences 55(4): 893-900


Heaton, V., Lagden, A. Moffatt, C. and Simmons, T. 2010
Predicting the Post-Mortem Submersion Interval for Human Remains Recovered from UK Waterways. Journal of Forensic Sciences 55(2):302-307


Cross, Peter A. and Simmons, T. 2010
The Influence of Penetrative Trauma on the Rate of Decomposition. Journal of Forensic Sciences 55(2):295-301


Simmons, T., Adlam, R., and Moffatt, C. 2010
Debugging decomposition data – comparative taphonomic studies and the influence of insects and carcass size on decomposition rate. Journal of Forensic Sciences 55(1):8-13.


Cross, P., Simmons, T., Cunliffe, R. and Chatfield, L. 2009
Establishing a Taphonomic Research Facility in the United Kingdom. Forensic Science Policy and Management 1(4): 187 -191


Smith, J. and Godfrey, H. 2009
The Application of Genetics in Forensic Entomology. Antenna (Bulletin of the Royal Entomological Society) 33(2):81-86


Adlam, R. and Simmons, T. 2007
The effect of repeated physical disturbance on soft tissue decomposition – are taphonomic studies an accurate reflection of decomposition? Journal of Forensic Sciences 52(5): 1007-1014.


Courses and Postgraduate Study

The School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences offers a number of undergraduate degree programmes and taught postgraduate courses in Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Genetics.


Andrew Melling is a practicing Veterinary Surgeon, in a large animal practice. He provides advice on issues relevant to the activity of TRACES, such as bio-security, animal ethics and welfare.

Additional Information

For further information about TRACES, short courses, research, hiring of our facility or any other enquiry, please contact:

Peter Cross
Tel: +44 (0) 1772 89 4153

Related Projects



Experimental Research Projects from TRACES in 2011:


  • The Influence of Topical Skin Applications to the Rate and Pattern of Decomposition (S.Radicke & T.Simmons)
  • The Influence of Hanging on Decomposition (J Lynch-Aird & T. Simmons)
  • The Rate and Pattern of Decomposition of Dismembered Remain in Insect-Repellent and Non-Repellent Bin Bags (K. Scholl & T.Simmons)
  • The Influence of Coleoptera (Beetles) on Decomposition (S. Nezerovic, T. Simmons & C. Moffatt)
  • The Influence of Decomposition on DNA Extraction from Muscle Tissue (S. Ellingham & W. Goodwin)
  • Fluctuating Temperature and Maggo Development (L.McIiroy, T. Simmons & C. Moffatt)
  • Maggot Mass Species Competition (N. Bobat, T. Simmons & C. Moffatt)
  • The Effect of Cast Impressions on Original Bone Trauma (M. Villarreal & T. Simmons)
  • Insect Succession Patterns on Decomposing Remains in N.W England ( P.Cross, C.Moffat & T. Simmons)
  • Modelling Maggot Mass Thermodynamics (V. Heaton, T. Simmons & C. Moffat)
  • Weathering of Bones in Terrestial and Tidal Environments (P.Cross, T. Simmons & M. Wysocki)
  • The Influence of Decomposition of Buried Remains on Soil Water Conductivity ( J. Pringle, J. Hansen, P. Cross & T. Simmons)




Experimental Research Projects from TRACES in 2010:

  • Influence of exsanguination on the decomposition process (E. Fowler & T. Simmons)
  • Degradation of DNA in muscle tissue ( M.Nazir and W. Goodwin)
  • Influence of hanging on the decomposition process (D. Selim & T. Simmons)
  • Influence of UV and solar radiation on tooth root bleaching (G. Bowman & T. Simmons
  • Influence of decomposition on subsurface soil ecology (A. Murray & T. Simmons)
  • Thermal induced changes in tooth colouration (JM Truesdale & T.Simmons)
  • Influence of implement shape on fracture propagation in blunt force trauma (T.Thomas & T. Simmons)
  • Effect of Tissue Type of Maggot Development (B. McSweeney & T.Simmons)
  • Accumulated degree days and the ability of trained canines to detect buried remains (T. Simmons and P. Cross with Greater Manchester Police).



Experimental Research Projects from TRACES in 2009:

  • Pattern and Rate of Decomposition in Burned vs. Unburned Carcasses (A. Gruenthal and T. Simmons)
  • The decomposition Rate of Heads Alone vs. Heads on Bodies (E. Walker and T. Simmons)
  • Formation Pattern and Chemical Composition of Adipocere (M. Widya and T. Simmons)
  • Variable Decomposition Rate and Pattern in Mass Graves (L. Troutman and T. Simmons)
  • Maggot Mass Thermodynamics (A. Troy, C. Moffatt and T. Simmons)
  • Effects of Extreme Heat on Sharp Force Trauma (D. Vincent and T. Simmons)


UCLAN Taphonomy Research prior to the establishment of TRACES:


  • Assessment of Differences in Decomposition Rates of Rabbit Carcasses With and Without Insect Access Prior to Burial (J. Bachmann and T. Simmons)
  • Bugs Bunny: The influence of insects on decomposition rate in buried and surface remains (T. Simmons, P. Cross, R. Adlam and C. Moffatt)
  • Cremated Tooth Morphology: A User’s Guide to Identification (E. Danner , M. Wysocki and T. Simmons)
  • Assessing Directionality of Low Velocity Gunshot Wounds to the Vertebrae: A Preliminary Study (J. Henderson and T. Simmons)



  • Computer simulation for drift trajectories of objects in the Magdalena River, Colombia (A.C. Guatame-Garcia, T. Simmons and L. A. Camacho).
  • The Influence of Penetrative Trauma on the Rate of Decomposition (P. Cross and T. Simmons)
  • Decomposition scoring as a method for estimating the postmortem submersion interval of human remains recovered form United Kingdom Rivers – A Comparative Study (A. Lagden and T. Simmons)
  • Debugging Decomposition Data (T. Simmons, R. Adlam, and C. Moffatt)
  • The Influence of Body Fat on the Rate of Decomposition in Traumatised Pigs (K. Chibba and T. Simmons)
  • The Effect of Carcass Weight on the Decomposition of Pigs (Sus scrofa) (H. Brand and T. Simmons)
  • Fracture Patterns in Fleshed and De-fleshed Pig Femora Inflicted with Various Ammunition types (J. Kay and T. Simmons)
  • Determination of Low Velocity Bullet Trajectory in Long Bones: An Experimental Investigation (R. McGowan and T. Simmons)



  • “Decomposition in a Mass grave and the Implications for Postmortem Interval Estimates” (R. White and T. Simmons), American Academy of Forensic Sciences. February: San Antonio.
  • The Decomposition of Human Remains Recovered from the River Clyde, Scotland: A Comparative Study of UK Fluvial Systems (V. Heaton and T. Simmons)