By Belle Vang, COSS Communications Student Assistant

The Anthropology and Criminology departments have collaborated to create a new program in Anthropology: Forensic Anthropology.  The new program’s focus is to provide students access to forensic focused educational opportunities, including courses in human bone identification, bone disease, forensic anthropology, and clandestine recovery. The goal of the program is to prepare students for a broad spectrum of forensic focused careers. 

Finding material for the program has been difficult, but through the generous donation of three high-quality skeletons to the Anthropology and Asian American department provided by Dr. Candice Skrapec, Criminology professor, and Dr. Emma Hughes, Criminology department chair and professor, students will now have the opportunity to work with high-quality bone casts of known sex, age, ancestry, and stature. These materials will allow students to teach the practice of forensic anthropology methods.

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(Left to right) Dr. Chelsey Juarez, Dr. Candice Skrapec, and Dr. Peter English interacting with the bones

The collaborative spirit of two different departments within the college creates endless opportunities for its students, faculty and staff, and communities.  Dr. Chelsey Juarez, forensic anthropologist and assistant professor of Anthropology, joined Fresno State in the fall of 2018.  She intends on using the skeletons to teach her students how to estimate sex, age, ancestry and stature from human bones and to conduct original research. The courses using these bones are open to all students and reinforce departmental level efforts to support interdisciplinary betterment for all students interested in forensics.

“Whole skeletons are hard to come by and expensive ($1,500-2,500), but they are critical for students to be able to understand the variation present within a single body that exists due to sex, age, and ancestry,” said Dr. Juarez. “This skeletal donation helps us to provide that training and unique hands-on experience.”

With her specialty in bones, Juarez identified the skeletons as one female set, one male set, and one partial juvenile set.  She emphasizes the anthropology department’s focus on training scientists-to-be with a deeper understanding of social and cultural issues regarding race, inequity, and justice.  The donation of these skeletons by the criminology department has had an immediate impact on the quality of education in Forensic Anthropology at Fresno State, providing students a competitive edge in their studies.

Close-up of the students aligning the skeletons

Students who are new to the field, like Angelica Lemus, Anthropology student, believes in the importance of all students having a fair opportunity to an authentic hands-on experience.  She shares the essentiality of being able to feel the bones, know what they look like, and to be able to rearrange them in its anatomical position and mentions how actually feeling the bones has made all the difference in her experience.

“Being able to identify human bones is very important work.  I’m glad that they have this opportunity here at Fresno State and we are able to have this collection for everyone,” Lemus emphasizes.

The donation furthers Fresno State students’ knowledge through developing authentic, practical experiences while continuing to strengthen the bonds between departments.

If you are interested in getting hands-on experience with the bones and joining Forensic Sciences, the forensic anthropology classes offered in Spring 2020 are as listed:
ANTH 169T: Intro to Forensic Anthropology: Special studies of the discovery and interpretation of information in physical anthropology, and of the application of this subdiscipline in legal, medical, and scientific research.
ANTH 161: Bio/Behavioral Evolution of the Human Species: Examines the evolution of the human species and its relationship to living and extinct primates.  Explores the biological basis of human culture. Integrates biology, geochronology, and anthropology in order to understand the bio/behavioral nature of modern man.