Carson-Newman plans body farm

Carson-Newman plans body farm

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"We want to see what that decomposition does to the ground, the water and the air around it," said Ellington. "We want to see what that decomposition does to the ground, the water and the air around it," said Ellington.
Seven acres of land in New Market will become the Carson-Newman Environmental Decomposition site. Seven acres of land in New Market will become the Carson-Newman Environmental Decomposition site.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

NEW MARKET (WATE) - The body farm at the University of Tennessee is world-renowned, both for morbid curiosity and groundbreaking research on, among other things, how the environment affects human decomposition.

What's planned by Carson-Newman, on a much smaller scale, is basically the opposite - researchers will study how decomposition affects the environment.

"All the other body farms worldwide, there are five, look at the decomp above the ground, what happens to the body," explained associate professor Dr. B.J. Ellington, a forensic nurse practitioner. "We want to see what that decomposition does to the ground, the water and the air around it, and then how long is that area affected by the decomp of that body.

"I said, 'Why don't we do a body farm?'" Ellington recalls.

Art Bohanan, a retired Knoxville Police Department fingerprint expert and friend of Dr. Ellington, wasn't on board right away. 

"In my mind I thought, 'That's stupid.' But the more I thought about it, I said, 'Yes, but it has to be different.'" Bohanan said.

Seven acres of land in New Market will become the Carson-Newman Environmental Decomposition site. It's part of 70 acres owned by Bohanan.

"I think we're going to see world-class research patented out of this," he said.

Faculty and staff hope that eventually their research will help first responders in mass casualty situations, like the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. 

"If we can discover what kind of toxins go how far and how long they're likely to be there, we can help protect them," Ellington said.

Research is expected to begin at the Carson-Newman body farm next summer. The school will begin offering a master's in environmental forensics in 2014.

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