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Microbial Community Succession in Human and Pig Decomposition

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Past Project Period End Date
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $50,000)

As submitted by the proposer: Decomposition is a dynamic environment populated by a complex network of communities including: mammalian; insect; and microbial species that inhabit the death environment and prey upon the remains and each other. This project will develop a greater understanding of decomposition through studying the relationship between the decomposing organism and the microorganism communities that populate it and its immediate environment. Using the remains of pigs and donated humans, this project will focus on identifying microbial communities and tracking community profile changes. Skin and rectal swabs from the research subjects and soil samples taken from underneath the remains will be analyzed with Illumina Next-Gen Sequencing using the 16S rRNA gene, specific to bacteria, to identify microbial communities. In addition to better understanding this novel microbial ecology, the project will directly compare pig decomposition to that of humans to determine if pigs, a common human research substitute, are a reasonable proxy for microbial research. Ultimately, a chronological timeframe of community presence, interaction, and succession will be developed. This has direct implications for the death investigation community, as a better understanding of the microorganism communities proliferation and succession, could lead to more accurate time since death estimates in the advanced stages of decomposition.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.

Date Created: July 18, 2016