When Alyson Wilson watched cattle decomposing on her family's Rolland Plains property little did she realise it would eventually lead her to cutting edge world research.
Ms Wilson has taken that morbid fascination to the southern hemisphere's only body farm at the foothills of the Blue Mountains where she is using time lapse photography to capture a decomposing body.
Specifically, she is monitoring arm and leg movements with a time lapse photo taken every 30 minutes as the body goes through its natural process.
The Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER) was established in 2016. It is used to research human decomposition in various scenarios that mirror crime scenes or natural disasters.
These post-mortem movements have significant forensic implications for homicide investigators.
"In unexplained death situations, police will map out a crime scene including the victim's body position or remains," she said.
"This mapping technique helps police piece together the cause of death or the circumstances surrounding that death - determining if the death was of natural causes or a homicide.
"This is where the post mortem movements can be significant.
"If a person has died from a drug overdoes, police would expect to find a syringe in or very near the deceased's hands.
"However, with post-mortem movements, the hands or the arm could have moved a significant distance away from its original position and away from the syringe."
That could lead to an incorrect cause of death or a misinterpretation of a crime scene.
"And that could mean a lack of closure for the victim's family or a perpetrator going free," she added.
Ms Wilson says post-mortem movements include arms "going out like angel wings" and an arm moving outwards before moving back "like a hand on a hip".
"There is quite a lot of movement," she said.
"As the body breaks down, the body starts to dry out, especially when the body is exposed to extreme hot and cold conditions.
"During the mummification process, ligaments dry out and shrink. This drying out causes the limbs to move."
Uniquely, there is a difference in this mummification process between a decomposing body in Australia and the northern hemisphere.
Decomposition in a northern hemisphere body ends in skeletonisation where the body has completely dried out to dry bones.
However, research shows that a body in Australia basically stops decomposing at the mummification stage which sees some skin remain intact and part bone exposure.
"This is unique to Australia," she said.
Based in Cairns at Central Queensland University, Ms Wilson travels to the body farm each month to change camera batteries and download data.
She attended Westport High School, graduating in 1994 before completing a degree in criminology and a medical science degree.
Her current role is in forensic taphonomic research with CQUniversity. This is her second year in research.
She admits to being "fascinated with how the body breaks down after death from a scientific perspective".
Ms Wilson has been using time lapse to record the decomposition of a donor body for 17 months.
She says it is vital that research of this kind is undertaken in Australia.
We are the only facility in the southern hemisphere. Previously we relied on northern hemisphere data, where the climate is different, and right down to differences in insects.Alyson Wilson
"We are the only facility in the southern hemisphere. Previously we relied on northern hemisphere data, where the climate is different, and right down to differences in insects.
"It all plays a part in the decomposition process."
There are 70 bodies being used for all different taphonomic studies in the AFTER program. Ms Wilson says she has just one body in the post-mortem movement study.
She hopes more donors can be found to continue the research and enable comparisons to be made.
"Once I can establish a pattern in movements, I can then develop a protocol that shows just how far a body moves through decomposition," she said.
"This will see me develop a protocol for police to use.
"I am also hopeful that this research will then move internationally where we would have donors set up overseas.
"This research is the first in the world. My findings will be released next month and hopefully this information will be released for publication."
Ms Wilson said not enough people donate their bodies to scientific research.
She plans to continue with her PhD next year and wants to ultimately become a forensic anthropologist. She wants to get involved in further education for upcoming scientists.
Ms Wilson described people who donate their body for research, and particularly her program or the AFTER, as "a very special gift".
To find out more information on the body donation program you can google UTS body donation program.
She has a published article in an International Forensic Science Journal.
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