The Work of Art

Carson-Newman College sent me an email yesterday that made my day. The subject line was “Carson-Newman to Announce Environmental Forensics Program.” They are planning to open their own body farm, specializing in the study of decomposition’s effect on the environment.

Hello Frank,
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My name is Charles Key and I am with the College Communications Office at Carson-Newman College. I am sending you the following media advisory as I have heard you have a particular interest in this kind of thing. Please let me know if you would like follow up information.
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Thank you,
Charles

I replied that I was very much interested, both as a supporter of Dr. Bill Bass and as president of the FBI Knoxville Citizens Academy Alumni Association. Dr. Bass and his Bone Zones team have given their blessing to the project and to his good friend Art Bohanan, who is donating land to Carson-Newman for the facility.

In my message, I said I would be curious to know how the research will affect the funeral industry now that some funeral homes are offering “green burials.” I am also interested in potential criminology applications. They could study the soil where a body had been before being moved. Perhaps they could even use the LABRADOR sniffer developed by Dr. Arpad Vass.

At the conclusion of the press conference, Charles Key sent me a press release and photo. He also invited me to visit the campus, which I hope to do soon.

Carson-Newman announces study of Environmental Forensics Program, decomposition site in press conference
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Forensics expert Art Bohanan shows Carson-Newman Provost Kina Mallard the future Environmental Decomposition Site Carson-Newman officials announced the beginning of an explorative study of an Environmental Forensics Program and, as part of it, an Environmental Decomposition Site to measure the residual effects both animal and human decay have on air quality, water supply and surrounding soil.
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The prospect of such an environmental study facility has drawn the endorsement of several leading forensic science experts, including Dr. William Bass, of the University of Tennessee’s Body Farm, and Art Bohanan, whose innovations and discoveries have garnered global attention. Bohanan’s commitment to the project includes the donation of seven acres of his 70-acre parcel in New Market property to be used for the study site.
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While the world has five forensic anthropology observation laboratories, commonly known as “body farms,” there is no facility that examines what happens where a body breaks down. Bohanan, a forensics expert and consultant, indicated that such study is essentially nonexistent.
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“There is very little study that we know of,” said Bohanan. “This is pioneering a new area in the world by using a site of this nature for environmental issues.”
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Dr. B.J. Ellington, a C-N associate professor of nursing and a driving force behind the new initiative, explained the difference of such research from sites already established. “The major difference from this study and others that already exist is that they look above the ground at the decomposition; we’re going to be looking below the ground at what the effects are.”
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According to Ellington the data collected could be used to ultimately help protect responders and healthcare workers arriving at an area affected by mass fatalities or an epidemic, citing the detrimental health effects experienced by responders to the 9-11 terrorist attack. “The information gained could be used to help first responders and determine the breadth and depth of the area that must be neutralized before it can be safely reoccupied,” said Ellington.
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The proposed program, a Master of Science in Environmental Forensics, would be C-N’s first graduate offering in science. Pending a successful study, C-N officials expect the MS could open by the summer of 2014, with researchers from other academic institutions and investigatory agencies as early as next summer.
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“Carson-Newman is excited about the possibility of developing a curriculum that will support the research planned for this site,” said C-N Provost Kina Mallard. “This venture will make a positive impact on Carson-Newman, Jefferson County, East Tennessee, and the world.”
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Carson-Newman is a private, Christ-centered liberal arts-based institution. Founded in 1851, C-N offers 50 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate programs. This year C-N was one of only five institutions to receive the Presidential Award, the highest distinction on the 2012 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

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