Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Erin Kimmerle, Ph.D.

Committee Member

E. Christian Wells, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lorena Madrigal, Ph.D.


PMSI, ADD, Decomposition, Florida


Within the past decade, several attempts have been made to standardize a method for estimating postmortem submersion intervals (PMSI); however, the majority of these studies have focused on data from a temperate climate which cannot be taken as representative of large portions of the globe. Thus, there are large portions of the earth in which the methodology from these studies may not be able to accurately estimate PMSI which has the potential to leave investigators in these other climatic zones at a disadvantage. This presentation presents a case study into the applicability of two Total Body Scoring Systems (TADS) utilized for estimating PMSI by Heaton et al. (2010) and van Daalen et al. (2017) for remains found within aquatic environments in subtropical climates. To this aim, data was collected from temporal photographs of cadavers donated to the Institute for Forensic Anthropology and Applied Sciences (IFAAS) that were taken while the donors were placed at the USF Facility for Outdoor Research and Training (USF-FORT) located in Tampa, Florida. The nine donors eligible for this study had been placed in a naturally occurring, freshwater, ephemeral, aquatic environment and allowed to decompose with limited intervention throughout a period of time between July 7th, 2019 to March 15th, 2021 (between 31 to 600 days). From this period of time, a random date, for which photographs were available, was chosen, that fell within a period in which the remains were in a state of active decomposition (between 4 and 31 days), to serve as the date on which the donor would be scored with the TADS systems and would provide a known PMSI with which the estimated PMSI could be compared. The results of this analysis indicate that the Heaton et al. TADS system has a lower degree of interobserver error than the van Daalen et al. system and can estimate PSMI with a high degree of accuracy for remains who are given a TADS score under 20.