What happens after death?

18 January 2019

World-leading forensic science expert will give rare insight at free UCLan public event

Fans of TV programmes such as Silent Witness, Bones and CSI can discover the real-life science behind what happens to bodies after death at a free event hosted by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

The University will welcome a world-renowned expert in taphonomy – the science of what happens to organisms after they die - on the 24 January.

Professor Shari Forbes from Three Rivers University in Quebec, Canada, will discuss human decomposition and explain the physical, chemical, and biological reactions that take place in the human body after death.

She will talk about the role of so-called ‘body farms’ in taphonomic research and how human and animal cadavers (corpses) are utilised in decomposition facilities, as a way of assisting the police and the criminal justice system.

Professor Forbes was previously the Director of the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), which hosts human bodies and she has now moved to Canada to establish a similar research facility.

She has been invited to UCLan by Dr Patrick Randolph-Quinney, Reader in Biological and Forensic Anthropology, who leads taphonomic research at UCLan, including the University’s own ‘body farm’ TRACES. TRACES is the largest outdoor decomposition facility in Europe and focuses on animal taphonomy as a model for humans because UK laws do not allow human remains to be used for this type of research.

Dr Randolph-Quinney said: “We’re really excited to welcome Professor Forbes to Preston. Forensic taphonomy, and body farms in particular, are popular subjects in many tv and fiction novels - in fact the term ‘body farm’ was first coined by author Patricia Cornwell in her Kay Scarpetta novels. This public lecture will provide a rare chance for people to learn the hard science behind the fiction from an internationally-respected expert in taphonomy.”

The event will take place on Thursday, 24 January, 1.00pm – 2.00pm in UCLan’s Foster Lecture Theatre Four.