Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Biology (MS)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Josh Sharp


Human decomposition is a complex and variable process influenced by innumerable factors such as the weather, innate microbiome, environmental microbes, and a myriad of other factors. The purpose of this study is to illuminate how the aforementioned factors influence necrobiome succession and how it relates to postmortem interval through the use of buccal swab and muscle tissue sampling from the arm (deltoid) and thigh (vastus lateralis). The use of muscle tissue samples is a novel means to study bacterial succession during human decomposition. Utilization of 16s rRNA sequencing provided information used to assess the overall diversity and variability of the necrobiome community composition over the course of the decomposition process for three donors. Human remains were donated to Forensic Research Outdoor Station (FROST) through the Northern Michigan University Body Donation Program. Analysis of the results using next generation metagenomic sequencing successfully showed patterns relating to time, temperature, accumulated degree-days, bacterial markers for sample site location, bacterial markers for donor identification, and as a whole, potential indications of postmortem interval.

Access Type

NMU Users Only

Available for download on Tuesday, June 09, 2026