International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 128, Issue 4, pp 725–732 | Cite as

Terrestrial laser scanning to model sunlight irradiance on cadavers under conditions of natural decomposition

  • Sibyl Rae Bucheli
  • Zhigang Pan
  • Craig L. GlennieEmail author
  • Aaron M. Lynne
  • Daniel P. Haarman
  • John M. Hill
Technical Note


Human decomposition is a dynamic process that is influenced by both abiotic and biotic factors. Measuring these influences, in particular abiotic factors, on the decomposition process is often a challenge for scientists. Recently, researchers have turned to the use of advanced remote sensing technologies in forensic investigations. In this study, a new methodology is described that utilizes precise 3D images captured using terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to calculate total solar irradiance on a cadaver in a partially forested environment. To test this new measurement approach under actual field conditions, three cadavers were placed in an outdoor environment to decompose. Laser scans were taken the day of placement and used to calculate the total solar irradiance at time points of 24 h, 1 week, and 1 month from placement. The results show that as time progresses, different cadavers at the field site and different areas of the same cadaver receive varying amounts of solar irradiance. The modeling based on these laser scans can be used to create predictive images of solar irradiance that may provide researchers with a new tool to help quantitatively assess the effect of solar irradiance on a cadaver ecosystem.


Cadaver Outdoor decomposition Forensic science Terrestrial laser scanning Solar irradiance Modeling 



Bucheli and Lynne would like to thank Matt Borum, Natalie Lindgren, Brent Rahlwes, Melissa Sisson, and John Bucheli for their assistance in the field. Pan and Glennie would like to thank Darren Hauser for his assistance in generating the terrestrial laser scanning point clouds. The authors would like to thank Dr. Joan Bytheway and Kevin Derr at the STAFS facility. We would also like to extend our appreciation to the individuals and families who participate in the willed body donation program at STAFS; without them this research would not be possible. This research was supported in part by National Institute of Justice grant #2012-DN-BX-K023.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sibyl Rae Bucheli
    • 1
  • Zhigang Pan
    • 2
  • Craig L. Glennie
    • 2
    Email author
  • Aaron M. Lynne
    • 1
  • Daniel P. Haarman
    • 1
  • John M. Hill
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesSam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Office of Research and Sponsored ProgramsSam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleUSA

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