UTS Science Centre for Taphonomic Research
[Instrumental music played under Professor Shari Forbes’ voice]
[Opening shot of tree, shot of Shari Forbes in the eucalyptus woodland]
Welcome to, the Australian Facility For Taphonomic Experimental Research. My name is Shari Forbes and I am the director of the facility.
[Sequence of shots of the outside of the facility, featuring green fence]
AFTER is located at the base of the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney in a natural eucalyptus woodland.
[Shot of Shari Forbes talking]
AFTER is a unique body donation facility and is dedicated to the study of human decomposition.
[Shot of Shari Forbes and other researchers within the facility, walking towards a car which features the UTS: Science logo]
It’s the only facility of its kind in Australia, the only one in the Southern Hemisphere and in fact, the only facility located in the world outside of America.
[Professor Shari Forbes getting into the car, followed by a shot of her walking outside of the facility, shot of a man unlocking gate of the facility]
The original facilities in America have been extremely important for providing information about decomposition, but we recognise that our climate is extremely different, our ecosystem is different
[Shot of Professor Forbes walking outside facility]
and even the geology here in Australia is unique. That’s why UTS along with our partner organisations
[Shot of UTS: Science logo on car, car driving through eucalyptus forest in facility, Professor Forbes walking outside facility]
decided to establish AFTER here in Australia. This facility provides us much more accurate data about the rate and process of human decomposition in our local environment.
[Car drives through eucalyptus forest, Professor Forbes walking through forest]
This facility has been a long time in the making. It’s only through the financial contribution of the Australian research council and all of our partner organisations, along with the invaluable contribution of those who donate their bodies to science that AFTER is here today.
[Shot of workers in lab suits getting out of car, then walking away from car with Professor Forbes]
At AFTER we conduct a diverse range of research.
[Shot of Professor Forbes in eucalyptus forest, scientists walking through forest, sequence of scientist approaching a taped off area]
Some of our research focuses on enhancing our ability to search and locate victim remains, such as the use of cadaver detection dogs. Other aspects of our research focus on identifying the victim, whether that’s through fingerprints, DNA or use of isotopes.
[Sequence of scientists working with Professor Forbes]
We are always striving to enhance our ability to estimate time since death
[Shot of scientist working with computer and equipment in eucalyptus forest, shot of Professor Forbes in forest]
and in addition we provide training to police and other law enforcement agencies who are involved in the search and recovery of victim remains.
[Shot of marked plot of land, outside of facility, sequence of scientists working outside, including shot of Professor Forbes in forest]
Research and training conducted at AFTER is intended to assist police and forensic agencies involved in death investigations. Those investigations could include missing persons, victims of homicide, victims of mass disasters and others involved in human rights investigations.
[Mid-shot of Professor Forbes talking in eucalyptus forest]
UTS is incredibly excited about our current partnerships and future collaborations at AFTER]
[Screen goes black]
Australia’s forensic taphonomy facility
The Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER) is a unique body donation facility dedicated to the study of forensic taphonomy in Australia. Forensic taphonomy is the study of human remains from the time of death to the time of discovery. This field of science aims to solve problems surrounding the physical, chemical, and biological processes of human decomposition.
Facility unique to Australian conditions
Until now, human decomposition has only been studied in the USA at facilities colloquially known as ‘body farms’. These facilities carry out research through the invaluable donation of willed bodies to forensic science. Due to the distinct climatic, ecological and geological variation that we experience in Australia, a need was recognised for a facility that was representative of Australian conditions to better assist local police investigations.
In 2016, AFTER officially opened as the only facility of its kind in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. AFTER represents a multidisciplinary collaboration between academic, police and forensic agencies, who have members regularly involved in death investigations.
Contribution to society
AFTER will enable our researchers and practitioners to improve their understanding of the human decomposition process and assist police and forensic investigators to search for, locate, recover, and identify victim remains.
The research will also enhance our ability to estimate time since death. Such research is important for investigations involving missing persons, as well as victims of homicide, genocide, and mass disaster.
Donors to AFTER contribute to the most integral part of this work and our research would not be possible without their invaluable contribution to forensic science.