What’s in a Bone?

What’s in a bone?

You, your friends, and your dog are walking along the river valley. It is a nice sunny day; the birds are chirping the trails are full of adventurers but wait… your dog seems to be coming out of the bushes with something that looks like well it looks like a human bone. You grab the bone and you quickly walk over to your friends. You ask yourself is this an animal bone? Did I just walk myself into the middle of a real-life Dexter plot?  Should you go find the rest? For many of us who are not trained in osteology (study of bone), zooarchaeology (study of faunal remains), or zoology the distinction between human bone, animal bone, and even wood can be quite difficult. For example, a skeletonized bear paw can eerily look like a human hand if all the parts are not there. As seen in this new story, please be aware that there is a gruesome looking photo (Link). The discovery of unknown osteological material can sometimes cause a panic within the general public this can lead to the deployment of unnecessary police resources and use of resources within the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s office (OCME).

Hi my name is Julie Nguyen and for my summer 2019 stretch experience I collaborated with the department of Anthropology, fish and wildlife and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s office (OCME) to build and curate a catalogue of faunal remains to aid in the identification and distinguishing of faunal remains and human remains using laboratory techniques such as thin sectioning. What my project aims to do is to help the OCME cut down on the backlog of misidentified or unidentified bone material. During my stretch experience I was given the opportunity to train within the lab environment and learn techniques such as cross sectioning and thin sectioning bone, work with industry professionals, and build my soft skills such as communication within an academic environment. Although I am currently still working on my stretch experience and I hope to continue it well into the new year by slowly incorporating human material into my catalogue as well. Before I leave you for the summer I want to ask you, how will you solve your next murder mystery?

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