Novel applications of soil science – not for the faint hearted

Blog post by Joanna Niziolomski, Research Fellow in Sustainable Soil Management, Cranfield University

I have recently had the opportunity to work on a rather novel application of soil science. How do differences in corpse burial affect soil health?

It is easy to think that the addition of such a large nutrient source would be beneficial to soil health (at least I did), but how about when placed 1m below the soil surface?Exp_5

The forensic science community have long studied the impact of burial environments on corpse decomposition rates in order to ascertain the time since death in criminal investigations. However, a literature review investigating the composition of corpse and cremated remains, shallow burial and the acceleration of decomposition suggested that the impact of a corpse (cremated or buried) on soil health is unknown.

To begin to address this knowledge gap we have setup an experiment in which chunks of pork have been buried at depths of 0.3 and 1 m.


Exp_4Over time, the soil surrounding the decomposing meat will be sampled and analysed to ascertain any changes in the chemical and biological composition of the soil. It is hoped that this data can be interpreted to suggest the effect of different burial depths on soil health.


POster1Contact Dr Joanna Niziolomski ( or Dr Mark Pawlett ( for more information or visit The Corpse Project.