Outdoor Research Facility

STAFS is one of only four willed body facilities in the United States for the study of forensic science. The first human decomposition facility, known as the "body farm," was created by Dr. William Bass at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1980 and received its first donated body in 1981. Other facilities are located in western Carolina, east Tennessee and the Blackland Prairie of Texas. A fifth decomposition facility is under development in Colorado.

Because the United States has different climatic environmental regions, each facility can provide valuable information about the process of human decomposition, such as environmental changes, animal scavenging and insect species, in their area. Each facility contributes to taphonomy studies, which help deter time of death and other conditions impacting victims.

In Southeast Texas, the climate is subtropical and humid and in Houston, the probability of finding humans decomposing in natural environmental settings is greater than what might be encountered in less populated cities. The research that comes from the STAFS facility can be used both nationally and internationally in places that share similar environmental factors.

Our Outdoor Research Facility is located within the Center for Biological Studies at Sam Houston State University, a 247 acre parcel of land adjacent to the Sam Houston State Forest. Maximum security fencing surrounds the outdoor research facility with additional minimum security surrounding acreage reserved for other types of forensic training such as search and recovery maneuvers. Contained within the outdoor facility are a variety of various environmental conditions, including a fluvial environment. High definition cameras are located within the outdoor facility to monitor timing of various post-mortem activities from on and off-campus computers.