Chelsie Mangca Valdez and Hannah Dibner with their pig experiment

Chelsie Mangca Valdez and Hannah Dibner

Based on their discoveries in the field of carcass decomposition, Chaminade University students Hannah Dibner and Chelsie Mangca Valdez were invited to present their research at a national conference held by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).

The academy’s 69th Annual Scientific Meeting, scheduled for February 13-18 in New Orleans, brings together professionals in all areas of forensic science, including criminalists, physicians, toxicologists, anthropologists, dentists, physicists, psychiatrists, engineers and educators.

Dibner and Valdez, who will both graduate in Spring 2017 with a Master of Science in Forensic Sciences, decided to partner on their research into the biology and pathology of how pig carcasses decompose.

Dibner focused on the effects of scavenging by the Small Asian Mongoose. She points out that this type of research is important because wounds created by scavengers could be mistaken for trauma from violence. Also, knowledge of scavenger behavior could help search parties more effectively locate and recover human remains.

Hannah Dibner presenting at AAFS conference

Hannah Dibner

“Studying rotting carcasses may not be everyone’s idea of a good time,” Dibner says, “but to me it’s a dream come true. The decomp studies at Chaminade are asking certain questions that we haven’t seen addressed by anyone else. And as a scientist, that’s an incredibly exciting and unique position to be in.”

Valdez studied the skin chemistry of decomposing pigs. Her research may lead to a new technique for determining Post-Mortem Interval, meaning the amount of time that elapses after a person dies.

Chelsie Mangca Valdez presenting at AAFS conference

Chelsie Mangca Valdez

“The thing I am most excited about regarding the AAFS conference is the opportunity to meet professionals in the field I have committed seven years of my life studying,” Valdez says. “This experiment was very time consuming but it was very much worth it,” she adds. “I never thought I would be attending a national conference, let alone presenting my finding all while still attending college.”

Dr. David O. Carter, director of Chaminade’s Forensic Sciences Program, encouraged Dibner and Valdez to submit their research to AAFS.