Erica Johnson

Date of Award

Spring 3-5-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Biology; College of Arts & Sciences

First Advisor

Kimberlee Moran


Forensic taphonomy is the study of all the biological, chemical, and environmental processes that occur postmortem on human remains. Decomposition begins immediately after death and is affected by numerous factors, including temperature, moisture, soil acidity, and microbial activity. Knowing how these factors affect decomposition is necessary in determining the postmortem interval of a recovered body. The effect of the New Jersey Pine Barrens soil environment on the decomposition of buried remains was examined. This area contains soil that is characterized as acidic, low in moisture, and nutrient-poor. Rats were buried and then exhumed at different stages of decomposition (75, 187, 331, 793, and 3245 accumulated degree days). The results were consistent with the expected rate of decomposition which was calculated based on temperature alone. Because of what is known about acidity and moisture, it is suggested that the acidic soil compensated for the decelerating effects of burial and low moisture soil. Results can be applied to postmortem interval calculations in future forensic cases of recovered bodies found in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Included in

Life Sciences Commons