This seventh episode of the 2019 R&D season of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Dr. Audris Mockus, a Professor in the Tickle College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who discusses an Image Cloud Platform for Use in Tagging and Research on Decomposition database.
Over the last few decades, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Forensic Anthropology Center have been photographing and cataloguing the decomposition of the subjects in their body farm. With the assistance of Dr, Mockus, this collection is being turned into an image database for both research and forensic investigation. In this interview, Dr. Mockus discusses the database and its potential impact on both post-mortem interval (PMI) estimation and the understanding of human decomposition. At the body farm, a daily photo is taken of each body for the purpose of capturing the body's condition each day of decomposition under various environmental conditions. For each photo, factors affecting decomposition are recorded, such as number of days since death; weather conditions for each day of decomposition; and the existence of factors that affect decomposition, such as presence and type of insect feeding on the body each day. The intent of the database is for investigators to use it in matching a photo of a body at a crime scene with a photo from the body farm's database, whose PMI is known. Dr. Mockus discusses the objectives and tasks of creating a database that can reliably produce photo matches of decomposed bodies that yield accurate PMI estimates.