Mercyhurst University Forensic Anthropology Short Courses

The Department of Applied Forensic Sciences (DAFS) at Mercyhurst University is offering five Forensic Anthropology short courses during June of 2016. Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat, director of DAFS, has been offering these courses since 1992. Each course will be taught by several expert instructors in their respective disciplines and each course provides extensive hand-on learning opportunities.

Death Scene Archaeology: Field Methods in the Location Recovery & Interpretation of Human Remains in Outdoor Contexts will be held June 6-10. This course will introduce participants to the principles and methodologies of Forensic Archaeology. Lectures and mock outdoor crime scenes will be used to describe state-of-the-art methods available to investigators during the documentation and recovery of physical evidence – including human remains – from a variety of outdoor contexts, including surface scattered sites and buried body features.

Fragmentary Human Osteology will be held June 13-17. The goal of this course is to familiarize students and professionals with the identification of fragmentary human skeletal remains frequently encountered in Biological, Bioarchaeological, and Forensic Anthropological contexts. Emphasis will be placed on identifying and siding fragmentary human bone, differentiating human from non-human bone, recognizing sub-adult remains, and understanding the basics of bone biology. Participants will be introduced to normal human variation, as well as, taphonomic and pathological changes. The course involves extensive hands-on opportunities with hundreds of real bone fragments, supplemented by detailed lectures, presentations, and actual forensic case studies and archaeological samples.

Advanced Methods, Techniques and Practices in Death Scene Archaeology will be held June 13-17. This course is meant for individuals who have taken the Mercyhurst Death Scene Archaeology course or who have significant experience dealing with outdoor forensic scenes. Participants will process three realistic outdoor scenarios that include a surface scatter, a buried body feature, and a fatal fire scene, and prepare professional reports for each scene. Benefits of a forensic taphonomic perspective to the collection and interpretation of evidence at these scenes will be emphasized.

Analysis of Bone Trauma in Suspected Violent Deaths will be held June 20-24. This course will familiarize students and professionals with current analytical methods in the interpretation of bone trauma. Focus will be on the differentiation of ante-, peri-, and postmortem trauma to bone, through biomechanical interpretations in the laboratory. Students will be provided with extensive hands-on opportunities with demonstration, cast, and case-study specimens which will supplement the detailed lectures and presentations.

Documentation of the Mass Fatality Scene: Plane Crashes will be held June 27-July 1. The goal of this five-day short course is to familiarize participants with current methods employed during the recovery of victims from mass fatality scenes. Focus will be on search techniques and evidence documentation protocols that result in efficient, effective, and timely mass fatality scene recovery operations. Following classroom training, students will participate in the recovery of a mock plane crash. Experience will be gained in using electronic total station, survey-grade GPS, basics of GIS, and in forensic archaeological recoveries.

For more information contact Kathi Staaf (814.824.3119) or visit

To register, visit the website listed above.