“Beyond Borders: Forensic Science and the Journey Home”

 

Provost’s Lecture: Tuesday, October 1
4:30–6 p.m., Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center

UIndy-forensics-(2)The deaths of hundreds of undocumented migrants in southern Texas is the focus of the inaugural Provost’s Lecture. Assistant professor Krista Latham directs UIndy’s Molecular Anthropology Laboratory, teaches in the Biology and Anthropology departments, and works on human-remains cases in UIndy’s Archeology & Forensics Laboratory. Latham has more than 10 years of experience in locating burial sites, exhuming graves, and analyzing skeletal remains to determine sex, age, height, and other factors that can assist in identification. She and several qualified students were called to southern Texas by Baylor associate professor Lori Baker, who has been involved in the issue for a decade.

“Many people in the United States are unaware of the humanitarian crisis occurring on the southern border between Texas and Mexico,” says Latham. “Hundreds of people are dying as they risk everything to cross the border illegally in order to make a better life for themselves and their families. Many rural counties in the southern United States do not have the resources to address the number of deaths per year, which equal or exceed the deaths in a mass disaster situation. The number of deaths in Brooks County, Texas, alone last year exceeded those in the entire state of Arizona, a state that has held the record for the highest number of migrant deaths for the past decade. The drastic need for forensic specialists in this situation inspired me to volunteer my expertise to identify these individuals and return them to their families for a proper burial. In May, I took four University of Indianapolis graduate students that are training in forensic anthropology to Falfurrias, Texas, to begin the identification process by exhuming 63 unidentified individuals from unmarked graves in a pauper’s part of the local cemetery.

“This presentation will document the role of University of Indianapolis faculty and students in volunteering in every aspect of the identification process, from exhumation to skeletal analysis. It will demonstrate the social responsibility and dedication required in the effort to give these individuals a name and a voice, and return them to their loved ones.”

For more information about Latham and her students’ work in Texas, visit 1400.uindy.edu. The lecture is free and open to the public. (See page 6 of this issue of Portico for details about other Homecoming Week events.)