USF's Forensic Anthropology Laboratory is best known for its work at the Dozier School for Boys. Now, they're asking for approval to use a parcel of land in Lithia as a training ground for identifying real bodies in different stages of decomposition.
Currently, students are using plastic skeletons to train on. USF Anthropology professor Erin Kimmerle, however, said that real bones aren't pure white like fake ones are.
"Bones take on the color of their environment, so they become the color of the soil if there's leaves and vegetation," she said. "Or if they're in the sun, there's sun bleaching."
Kimmerle says that the bodies won't have any adverse environmental effect.
"This will not contaminate the water or soil, it will not smell beyond the fencing," she said. "It will not negatively impact nearby residences."
The nearest residence to the proposed Facility for Outdoor Experimental Research and Training (FORT) is half a mile away. The two acre secured site is part of the 230 acre training grounds of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
The facility, which would be the first of its kind in Florida, has backing from law enforcement both locally and statewide, as well as state Attorney General Pam Bondi. It also has financial support from donors - public funds would not be needed for maintenance of the facility.
And they've also received public support in an unusual manner: so far, 33 people have volunteered to donate their bodies to USF for use at the facility after they die. After being used in research at the facility, those remains would be placed in the USF Donated Skeletal Collection for further research.
A public meeting will be held at Pine Crest Elementary School in Lithia, Thursday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m. Kimmerle hopes she'll be able to allay resident's concerns about the training facility.
"As many sort of public meetings and public forums that we can do to explain that just helps answer all those questions," she said. "Then, the next step would ultimately be to approach the County Commissioners and ask for them and their support in pushing this forward, because ultimately, they're the ones who own the land."