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Decomposition Ecology (11:370:415)

View Syllabus (475k PDF)

  1. Semester: Summer
  2. Period: M-F, all day, 2-week course
  3. Credits: 3
  4. Format: Lecture/Field
  5. Pre-requisites and Other Registration Restrictions: Insect Biology 11:370:381 (suggested)
  6. Texts: Byrd, J.H. and J. L. Castner. (eds.) 2009. Forensic Entomology: The Utility of Arthropods in Legal Investigations – Second Edition. CRC Press, Inc. Boca Raton, Florida. ??????????? ISBN: 0-8493-9215-2. Catts, E.P. and N.H. Haskell. 2008. Entomology and Death: A procedural guide. 2nd Edition Joyce's Print Shop, Inc. Clemson, South Carolina.ISBN: 978-0-615-21455-9 (optional)


This course will consist of classroom lectures, lab activities and, of course, fieldwork. Some of the topics that will be discussed during lectures will be insect anatomy and morphology, the life cycle and behavior of necrophagous and necrophilous insects (insects that feed on carcasses or that are attracted to them), the process of colonization of a dead body, thanatology (all the phenomena and processes that occur after death) and reviews of criminal cases. The fieldwork will consist of observing carcasses in different stages of decomposition to assess their status, collection of insect evidence and other types of data from them and from the scene, and photographic techniques to document the scene. In the lab, students will observe and identify the insects collected from the scene using dichotomous keys, they will learn how to fix maggots and mount them on a slide and they will also have the pportunity to rear insects collected from the scene.

Course Learning Goals

  • Understand how decompositional sucession of insects is used in forensic investigations
  • Be able to properly collect entomological crime scene evidence
  • Be able to analize, interpret, and present entomological crime scene evidence

Student Learning Assessment

Item Percent of Grade
Two hourly exams are given during lecture periods 50%
Five laboratory identification quizzes 20%
Term paper 10%
Class attendance and participation 20%


Denise Gemmellaro
Thompson Hall
Office Hours: by arrangement