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A high resolution study of long-term vertebrate decomposition in human and animal model systems

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2020
313 pages

This dissertation examines long-term patterns of nematode responses to human decomposition environments.


The author’s ultimate goal for the research presented in this dissertation was to explore nematode systematics in decomposition environments, culminating in a pair of long-term human decomposition seasonal trails, in high resolution, with the specific intent of integrating the fields of soil chemistry, microbial ecology, and nematology, in order to assess the relationships of cross-disciplinary impacts. This research consisted of three objectives: evaluation of nematode communities in a multi-individual grave; evaluation of longitudinal patterns in nematode diversity in an animal model system; and evaluation of seasonal differences in decomposition patterns across the disciplines of soil chemistry, microbial ecology, and nematology, in high resolution and long-term. Results indicated that nematode communities exhibited persistent modification after four years in a grave, and successional patterns in a vertebrate surface-decomposition model system; and the human seasonal study demonstrated that soil chemistry and fungal beta diversity were inextricably interlinked, as were nematode abundances and thermal effects, and that seasonal rates of change in decomposition progression are mirrored across all three disciplines. Based on the results, the author recommends that the research community broaden decomposition soil research into an interdisciplinary study so these processes may be fully and accurately contextualized.

Date Published: December 1, 2020