Date of Award

8-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Bioengineering

Committee Member

Melinda Harman, Ph.D., Committee Chair

Committee Member

Caye Drapcho, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elena Mikahailova, Ph.D.

Abstract

Laboratory-scale forensic bioreactors can be beneficial for simulating and monitoring of burial settings by providing controlled environmental parameters (e.g. temperature, moisture, and others) applicable to a wide range of environments. The objectives of this study were to design and build forensic bioreactor, define parameters that are relevant to burial settings and suitable for laboratory simulation in the bioreactor, and verify the performance of the bioreactor. The laboratory-scale forensic bioreactor consisted of housing with individual soil chambers, temperature sensors with signal controls, soil moisture sensors, and a computer with software. The forensic bioreactor was capable of simulating burial settings. Two soil types with different soil pH levels and soil moisture within a udic moisture regime (>10% VWC) were placed in the bioreactor along with sensors and signal controls to maintain a thermic temperature regime (15 –22° C). The temperature parameters remained stable within the thermic temperature regime (15 – 22° C) and toggled between 18.8° C (minimum temperature) and 20.2° C (maximum temperature). The soil moisture parameters declined slowly throughout the test period but remained within a udic moisture regime, averaging 22.0%, 17.6%, and 23.2% in the control, Ultisol, and Mollisol, respectively. The laboratory-scale forensic bioreactor was built with readily-available, inexpensive materials, and can be easily reproduced for use in forensic research. This research introduces a new technological system, the forensic bioreactor, in order to provide controlled and reproducible environments for forensic science.

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