University Students Learn Life-Long Lessons

Sacred Heart Cemetery, Falfurrias, TX:  During the 10-day period (June 1-11), undergraduate and graduate students worked diligently to exhume as many human being remains as possible as part of the Forensic Project coordinated by the Forensic Scientists Team, their professors, Dr. Lori Baker, Sgt. Jim Huggins, and Dr. Krista Latham. The field work is part of their summer course in forensic anthropology that leads to their particular degree in a related field. Some students are Biology majors, others are interested in the criminal investigation aspects. But in this project, all students participated in every aspect of the scientific process. (See related story.)

The students were divided into four teams and rotated duties and responsibilities that included taking measurements, digging with hands, shovels, dustpans, etc, and recording and reporting. They were constantly reminded by their professors and peers to drink plenty of water.

What was their game plan? One student’s response was that there was no plan since they didn’t have any specific information in regard to the number of unknown migrants buried in the designated plot and where they were buried. So, they started digging, probing, exploring, until they recovered the remains, a total of 50. Once they located a bag of remains, they worked carefully to ensure that all of the remains were left intact.

The heat and exhaustion were barely tolerable, but some students became ill and were taken to the emergency hospital in Kingsville. In all there were a few students that required emergency assistance, and three trips to the hospital. One student had a back injury while others suffered from dehydration. Their work began each morning before daybreak and by noon the heat forced them to break for the day.

The exhumation attracted a steady flow of visitors and media personnel. The students were clearly in a fishbowl and everyone who witnessed their work were equally impressed by their diligence, hard work and dedication, not only for the project’s success but for their own development as scientist; and hopefully, gained an insight into the tragedy of how border crossers risk their lives trying to cross into the United States, and yes, die in the process.

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