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Forensic Anthropology & Related Programs

WCU's Forensic Anthropology Program along with the Division of Educational Outreach, are pleased to offer these unique workshops to Law Enforcement personnel, medicolegal professionals as well as undergraduate or graduate level college-level students. We even offer a special summer day camp for high school students. All workshops are held on WCU's campus in Cullowhee.


Women identifying bones


Forensic Anthropology and Burned Remains
Date: May 21-23, 2021  |  In-person
Time: Fri. 1-5, Sat. 8-5, Sun. 8-12

This course will act as an introduction and brief survey of forensic anthropology and the analysis of burned human remains. The course is meant for investigators that may encounter human remains in various states of thermal alteration. Course topics will include: the evaluation of material for medicolegal significance; human and non-human osteology; skeletal trauma analysis; taphonomic analysis; and recovery strategies for fire scenes including burned human remains. Note this class will include a hands-on component using a controlled-burn scene with human remains. 

This is a closed class open to fire investigators by special invitation ONLY.

Comparative Osteology (Bone Identification)
June 3-4, 2021 |  9:00am-5:00pm |  $249

Register Online

Primary Audience: Law Enforcement/medicolegal professionals/undergraduate or graduate level college-level student

Understanding the difference between human and non-human skeletal elements is crucial for forensic anthropologists, law enforcement, death investigators, as well as archaeologists. This course introduces participants to the field of osteology, or the study of the skeleton. During this course, participants will learn various methods for distinguishing human bone from non-human bone, using both human and non-human skeletons as hands-on teaching tools.  This course is geared towards law enforcement, medicolegal professionals and undergraduate- and graduate- level university students. No previous knowledge is required.

Tentative Schedule:
Day 1:
Introduction to the course
Introduction to bone/ anatomical terminology
Axial Skeleton

Day 2:
Appendicular skeleton
Bones of contention
Course Wrap-up

Recommended Text: Comparative Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Guide of Common North American Animals, 1st Edition by Brad Adams and Pam Crabtree

Fragmentary Human Osteology
June 7-11  |  9:00am-5:00pm  | $499


Primary Audience: Medicolegal professionals/undergraduate or graduate level college-level students

Human osteology, or the study of the skeleton, provides the basis for biological anthropology. Having an intricate understand of all 206 bones as well as the micro- and macroscopic properties of bones is essential for professionals and students tasked with skeletal analysis. Throughout this hands-on, five-day course participant will learn to identify and side skeletal elements in whole and fragmented form; understand the basics of bone biology and bone mechanics; and be able to recognize normal human variation from abnormal variation caused by pathology, trauma, or taphonomy. Participants will be tested on their knowledge through daily quizzes. This course is geared towards medicolegal professionals and undergraduate- and graduate- level university students. No previous knowledge is required.

Required Text: The Human Bone Manual, 1st edition by Tim White and Peter Folkens

Tentative schedule:
Day 1
Introduction to the course
Directional Terms/ Bone biology 
Axial skeleton (Sternum, Ribs, Verts)
Lab (axial skeleton)
Day 2
Quiz 1 (axial skeleton)
Bones of the skull/ teeth
Lab (skull/ teeth)
Day 3
Quiz 2 (skull/teeth)
Upper Limb
Lab (upper limb)
Day 4
Quiz 3 (upper limb)
Lower Limb
Lab (lower limb)
Day 5
Quiz 4 (lower limb)

Students looking at skull


Tales from the Dead: An Introduction to Forensic Anthropology for High School Students (3-day /Day Camp)
June 14-16| 9:00am-5:00pm | $250.00

This course is designed to introduce high school level students ages 15-18 to the field of forensic anthropology. The course will include both instructional and laboratory components and is designed to be hands-on, as students will be working with real human skeletal remains. Throughout the course, students will learn basic methods of laboratory analysis of human remains, including the estimation of the biological profile (sex, age, ancestry, and stature), human identification, pathology, taphonomy, and trauma as well as strategies for the search and recovery of skeletal remains. Students will apply their knowledge to selected case studies, which they will present at the completion of the course. 



Christine Bailey

Christine Bailey

Christine A. Bailey, M.A., is an instructor in Anthropology and the Forensic Anthropology Facilities Curator at Western Carolina University. Christine received her master’s degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in August 2018. She is a biological anthropologist whose research interests include human skeletal biology, forensic anthropology, taphonomy, human rights, and best practices in forensic anthropology. Her master’s research titled “Age-at-death Estimation: Accuracy and Reliability of Age-Reporting Strategies,” focused on evaluating age-at-death estimation methods commonly used in forensic investigations.

Photo of Diana Messer

Diana Messer

Dr. Diana Messer is a forensic anthropologist and assistant professor at Western Carolina University. She received her master’s degree in forensic and biological anthropology from Mercyhurst University and her PhD in anatomy from The Ohio State University. Dr. Messer has worked on or assisted with over 100 forensic cases at various institutions. She worked for 2 years as a forensic anthropologist in support of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in Hawai’i, was a Visiting Scientist at the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office, and she also worked as a postdoctoral faculty member at Mercyhurst. Dr. Messer’s research examines fracture healing in children in cases of suspected physical abuse.  

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