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This University’s ‘Body Farm’ Lets Students Study Real Decomposing Bodies

The University of South Florida is making progressive strides in its approach to teaching forensics. The Gainseville school is giving undergrad and graduate students studying forensics an up close and personal environment to see real bodies as they decompose. This learning and observing take place at the “body farm“.

That’s right, the University of South Florida’s department of anthropology allows those taking anthropology courses to experience some seeming field-specific things on the body farm at the Facility for Outdoor Research and Training.

What is a Body Farm?

The bodies used are of people who have opted to donate their bodies to further forensic research. Thirty-six bodies have been donated to this program already, with one hundred fifty more already pre-registered. Once decomposition is complete, the skeletal units will be used to make a collection that people from around the United States and the world can visit and research. While the bodies remain at the farm, they are spread around the fenced-in 3.5 acres of land donated by the Pasco County Sheriff’s office [This lease did end in May, they could be relocating!]

To prevent vultures tampering with the observation process, the bodies are protected by chicken wire. This ensures UF anthropology students get the opportunity to monitor decomposing bodies under the conditions of Florida’s subtropical climate- as naturally as possible. Talk about natural science!

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Who can visit?

This UF Anthropology field school is not visited only by students. Law enforcement from the state and national levels visit here as well. Along with anthropology course-specific material, visitors to the farm have to apply critical thinking at the moment. There are very logical and specific ways to gather and infer information depending on the surroundings of the body, odor, bodily color changes, or the type of insects around it.

This body farm is the first one of its kind in Florida but there are almost twenty in the United States! If you’re headed to Florida for any summer things and this is of interest to you, check them out online at ufl.edu!

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Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 12, 2019, to reflect editorial corrections where the Facility for Outdoor Research and Training, also known as FORT, was located. The original post stated it was located at the University of Florida. FORT is located at The University of South Florida.

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