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NMU to debut world's first cold-weather "body farm"

Ben Sutherland
Creative Commons

Northern Michigan University will debut a forensic anthropology major in the fall. Included in the curriculum will be hands-on experience in the world's first cold-weather "body farm".

A body farm is a research facility where decomposition of the human body in various environments is studied. There are currently eight in the world, but all are in moderate to warm climates. Relatively little is known about how a human body decomposes in cold weather.

Alan McEvoy is Head of NMU's Anthropology Department. He says the innovative facility will draw more than just interested students. 

"This is an opportunity not only for students, it's an opportunity for law enforcement training, it's an opportunity for science professionals to come here and do basic research, and get hands-on training," McEvoy said.

NMU was granted 2.5 acres of state land by Gov. Rick Snyder this week for the facility. Neighbors don't have to worry about their noses, however.

"One of the questions that always comes up is about the odor," McEvoy said. "Surprisingly, there isn't much odor. You have to be literally inside the facility and you have to have fresh donations."

McEvoy says these "donations" will come from Northern Michigan residents who want to donate their bodies to science. 

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