On the outskirts of Sydney, in a secret bushland location, lies what’s officially known as the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER). In books and movies, it’d be called a body farm.
Taphonomy is the study of how an organism breaks down after death. Research underway at the University of Technology Sydney’s AFTER facility is yielding some surprising new findings about how bodies decompose in the Australian bush.
And here’s an astonishing detail: until AFTER opened in Sydney in 2016, there was no facility like it in the southern hemisphere. Most of the world’s taphonomic research came from the US, meaning we were missing vital clues relating to how Australian weather, bugs and climate conditions affect the way a human body decomposes in the bush.
Today on our podcast, Trust Me, I’m An Expert, we take you on a journey to AFTER. The facility’s interim director, Maiken Ueland, and PhD student Samara Garrett-Rickman share with us:
- some of the unexpected findings emerging from AFTER on determining time since death;
- why AFTER researchers prefer not to use the term “body farm”;
- how the stages of decomposition work
- a process of “mummification” that research suggests may be unique to Australian bushland conditions;
- what the TV shows get wrong about forensic science;
- why it’s harder to bury a body than most people think;
- what investigators look for to spot a clandestine grave;
And if you’re interested in finding out more about how to donate your body for such research, you can start here.
New to podcasts?
Podcasts are often best enjoyed using a podcast app. All iPhones come with the Apple Podcasts app already installed, or you may want to listen and subscribe on another app such as Pocket Casts (click here to listen to Trust Me, I’m An Expert on Pocket Casts).
You can also hear us on Stitcher, Spotify or any of the apps below. Just pick a service from one of those listed below and click on the icon to find Trust Me, I’m An Expert.
Kindergarten by Unkle Ho, from Elefant Traks.
Backyard by David Szesztay from Free Music Archive