How A Field Of Decaying Bodies In Grand Junction Helps Investigators

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Photo: body farm
Former Colorado Mesa University student Amanda Offen takes a picture for a mock crime scene scenario that features the exhumation of a buried pig.

The most unusual classroom at Colorado Mesa University is actually a fenced-in field. There, at the edge of Grand Junction, human bodies lie, quietly decaying and mummifying. Some call the place a "body farm," though its official name is the university's Forensic Investigation Research Station.

There are just a handful of such facilities in the world, though Colorado's is unique for its high-desert location. It's used by students, coroners and police investigators to observe how bodies decompose at crime scenes. Students of entomology also use the site to explore how insects feed and breed on dead bodies.

The bodies have been donated for research, but it's not just human remains in the field. The site also houses deceased pigs, because their tissue is similar to that of humans.

Before students at Colorado Mesa return to class next week, Melissa Connor, who directs FIRS, spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.