HOUSTON – Journey to the Hill Country and you'll find mile upon mile of ranches. Texas, right? But at the Freeman Ranch, in San Marcos, it's not cattle being herded. Rather, you'll find fields of donated corpses.
Texas State University oversees this unique outdoor classroom where students and crime scene investigators learn what happens to a person once the Texas sun and soil take over. While the research at Freeman Ranch is not for the faint of heart, it's inspiring more and more people every year to volunteer to go there when they die.
"We get about 70 to 80 donations per year," Dr. Daniel Wescott, professor, Department of Anthropology, and director of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University, said.
The bodies are cataloged and placed in a field. Mother Nature takes over from there: students enrolled in the Forensic Anthropology program study the corpses as they decompose.
WARNING: Skeletal remains can be seen in many of the photographs
"We're looking at what kind of factors influence the rate and pattern of decomposition. [We're looking at] how the insects and the microbes interact, so we're kind of looking at decomposition ecology: looking at it as a kind of ecosystem," Wescott said.
The idea is to use information gathered, applying that research to medical legal cases to estimate how long a person has been dead.
More about Episode 6 of Season 1:
To learn more about the Forensic Anthropology Center and why it was created, visit the Texas State University website here.