Discovery and Recovery: Death Investigation in Natural Environments

Discovery and Recovery: Death Investigation in Natural Environments


In collaboration with North Carolina State University, Department of Biological Science, the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) hosted the Discovery and Recovery: Death Investigations in Natural Environments workshop on August 2-4, 2016 in Raleigh, NC. This workshop focused on disseminating practical knowledge of how to discover and recover clandestine burials, including the documentation and collection of anthropological and entomological evidence. The target attendees for this event were law enforcement officials, crime scene investigators, and forensic scientists. Attendees gained a fundamental understanding of how to search for and flag evidence using triangulation, mapping, and compass work.  Additionally, participants were instructed on how to apply the scientific method for human vs. non-human identification, insect identification, and estimation of Post-Mortem Interval (PMI) using entomological evidence.

Workshop Materials

Check out the videos and documents that assisted with the learning experience for the workshop below.


Discovery and Recovery of Human Remains
Estimation of PMI Using Entomological Evidence
Entomological Field Collection Techniques
History and Overview of Forensic Entomology Part 1
History and Overview of Forensic Entomology Part 2
Documentation and Crime Scene Photography


Forensic Entomology: Introduction
Forensic Entomology: Collection
Forensic Entomology: Insects as Indicators of the Postmortem Interval
Photographing a Case with Skeletal Remains

Workshop Presenters

Ann Ross, PhD
Professor  |  North Carolina State University, Department of Biological Sciences
Director  |  Forensic Sciences Institute, North Carolina State University

Chelsey Juarez, PhD
Assistant Professor  |  North Carolina State University, Department of Biological Sciences

Jason Byrd, PhD
Associate Professor  | University of Florida, Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine
Associate Director  |  University of Florida, William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine

Lead Presenter
Dr. Ann Ross

Ann H. Ross, PhD, D-ABFA, C-FASE, was awarded her Ph.D. in 2000 from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Ross is a Board Certified Forensic Anthropologist and is Internationally Certified by the Forensic Anthropology Society of Europe. She is currently a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and is the Director of the Forensic Sciences Institute at North Carolina State University, Raleigh.  She also serves as Vice President of the Forensic Anthropology Society of Europe, and consults for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s and law enforcement agencies across the state of North Carolina.  Dr. Ross has been committed to human rights and disaster work throughout her career.  She was deployed to Bosnia after the Genocide, worked for a number of years for the Panamanian Truth Commission and is still the forensic anthropology expert for the Institute of Legal Medicine, helped identify deceased after Hurricane Katrina and US citizens who perished in the Haiti Earthquake, and has worked in Chile.  Her lab (Forensic Analysis Lab) was named one of 30 most awesome college labs by Popular Science Magazine (

Workshop Agenda

Day 1:  Classroom Instruction

9 AM-12 PM:  Bone Identification and Skeletal Fragment Lab
1 PM-2:30 PM: Human vs. Non-Human Identification
2:30 PM-4 PM: Insect identification (forensic entomology) and estimation of PMI using entomological evidence
4 PM-5 PM: Review, open discussion and questions

Day 2: Field Instruction

Half of the participants started with entomology and half with surface recovery, then switched at the halfway point.

3 hours | Surface Recovery in the Field (9 AM-12 PM, and 1 PM-4 PM)
1 hour: Located clandestine grave, searched for and flagged evidence, and compass work
2 hours: Triangulation, mapping, evidence collection, and excavation techniques

3 hours | Entomology in the Field (9 AM-12 PM, and 1 PM-4 PM)
1 hour: Field collection techniques
1 hour: Field demonstration of collection procedures
1 hour: Collection

4 PM-5 PM:  Group reconvened for review, open discussion, and questions

Day 3: Excavation 

9 AM-12 PM: Located, excavated and collected evidence in the field.
1 PM-4 PM: Located, excavated and collected evidence in the field.
4 PM-5 PM: Returned to lab and completed a class assessment