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Heather Walsh-Haney, Ph.D. - Florida Gulf Coast University. Fort Myers, FL, US

Heather Walsh-Haney, Ph.D.

Expert in forensic studies and human rights | Florida Gulf Coast University


Heather Walsh-Haney teaches forensic science and regularly assists law enforcement finding and studying remains in Florida





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FGCU Perspectives - Forensic Anthropology - Heather Walsh-Haney FGCU Perspectives 113



Heather Walsh-Haney is an associate professor and chair in the Department of Justice Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. As a member of the Department of Health and Human Services Disaster Mortuary Response Team (DMORT), she helped locate and/or identify human remains from Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina and assisted in the recovery of human remains at the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Walsh-Haney is also an expert in forensics and crime scene recovery. Her research has taken her to Fiji on several occasions where she has been part of a larger study concerning ritual cannibalism and foodways in modern and ancient Oceania. She also works with an interdisciplinary team of practitioners on cases of feminicide in Guatemala and to combat human rights abuses in Colombia and Guatemala.

As faculty at the National Forensic Academy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, she teaches forensic techniques in anthropology, archaeology and osteology to law enforcement officers from both national and international agencies. She also regularly assists local law enforcement with finding and studying human remains, working on nearly 100 human remains cases every year.

Areas of Expertise (14)

Trauma Analysis

Witness Testimony

Child Abuse


Human Rights

Crime Scene Recovery

Forensic Anthropology and Human Evolution

Anthropology and Bioarchaeology

Ground-penetrating Radar

Domestic Violence

Decomposition Ecology and Forensics

Mass Fatalities

Crime Scene Analysis

Human Remains

Accomplishments (1)

FSF Emerging Forensic Scientist Award (professional)

2001 Presented by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to the author of the best paper on any topic focusing on the reliability and validity of techniques, processes or methods in a forensic area of the author’s choice.

Education (3)

Ph.D.: University of Florida, Gainesville FL. 2007

Physical Anthropology / Forensic Anthropology

M.A.: University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 1999

Physical Anthropology / Anatomy

B.A.: University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 1996

Anthropology / Minor in Zoology

Affiliations (8)

  • American Board of Forensic Anthropology : Diplomate
  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences : Fellow
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security : Founding Member
  • American Anthropological Association : Member
  • American Association of Physical Anthropologists : Member
  • Florida Emergency Mortuary Response Team : Member
  • National Disaster & Mortuary Response Team : 1998-2018
  • Latin American Studies Association : Member

Languages (2)

  • French
  • English

Selected Media Appearances (19)

‘The ultimate gift’: FGCU forensic program in need of body donations

NBC2  tv


Heather Walsh-Haney discusses the FGCU body donation program.

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FGCU professor, 2 students visiting Tulsa to unearth more graves at race massacre site

News-Press  print


Heather Walsh-Haney and two students traveled to Tulsa, OK to help unearth more graves from the 1921 race massacre.

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FGCU studies the dead at ‘body farm’ in Pasco County

NBC2  tv


Heather Walsh-Haney talks about FGCU's partnership with Florida’s Forensics Institute for Research, Security & Tactics and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

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Coronavirus contagious beyond death: unreported cases

Fox 4  tv


Heather Walsh-Haney discusses why the number of deaths caused by coronavirus might be undercounted.

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Skeletal remains handed over to Fort Myers forensic anthropologist after age, race dispute

TC Palm  print


Heather Walsh-Haney reviews human skeletal remains to determine forensic significance.

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An 8-year-old South Florida girl disappeared in 1984. A new tip may lead to her remains

Miami Herald  print


Heather Walsh-Haney and her students aid the Palm Beach County Sheriff Office in the search for Christy Luna's remains.

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Pasco Sheriff's Office, FGCU teach new generation of forensics detectives

Bay News 9  tv


Heather Walsh-Haney leads an FGCU partnership with the Pasco County Sheriff's Department.

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Florida man gets life in jail for murdering wife 26 years ago and burying her in backyard of son's childhood home

Meaww  online


Heather Walsh-Haney testifies in the case against Michael Haim.

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FGCU students, faculty to spend June searching for missing WW2 servicemen

FGCU 360  online


Heather Walsh-Haney is part of an FGCU team searching for servicemen missing in action from World War 2.

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Juror: Michael Haim was 'cool as a cucumber' and 'showed no emotion'

News 4 Jax  tv


Heather Walsh-Haney's testimony is credited as a key moment in the Michael Haim trial.

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New forensics training 'body farm' for FGCU students taking shape in Pasco County

Fox 4  tv


Heather Walsh-Haney leads an FGCU partnership with the Pasco County Sheriff's Department.

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Missing Jacksonville man’s remains are found during homicide investigation

The Florida Times Union  


Heather Walsh-Haney assists law enforcement in excavating sites containing human remains.

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Pasco's "body farm" ready to expand with research complex

ABC Action News  


Heather Walsh-Haney talks about Florida's unique climate necessitates the need for a "body farm" to aid the education of local law enforcement in locating and studying human remains.

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Scientists search for clues to identify found bones

U.S. World and News Report  


Heather Walsh-Haney's work assisting Brevard County's medical examiners in assessing human remains is described.

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7,000-Year-Old Native American Burial Site Found Underwater

National Geographic  online


Heather Walsh-Haney and her students help with the recovery of ancient skeletal remains.

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Forensic anthropologist working on the Tricia Todd case shares science of her craft

WPTV  tv


Heather Walsh-Haney discusses the techniques used in the Tricia Todd case.

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Bones fuel speculation about murder mystery

Arizona Republic  print


Heather Walsh-Haney discusses the discovery of eight bodies in the Florida woods.

I Have Gazed on the Face of Death

Science  print


Heather Walsh-Haney writes about her chosen profession.

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Skeleton Keys: How Forensic Anthropologists Identify Victims and Solve Crimes

Science  print


Heather Walsh-Haney writes about the techniques she uses to identify bodies.

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Selected Event Appearances (3)

The Science and Art of Reading Bones

The Southwest Florida Archaeological Society  Sarasota, Florida


The Anthropological Profile: Helping Law Enforcement to Recognize Lines of Anthropologic Evidence

Broward College  Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Documentation and Analysis of Human Rights Abuse Cases

National Forensic Academy Symposium, University of Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Center  Knoxville, Tennessee


Research Focus (1)

Human Skeletal Anatomy

Through the analysis of human skeletal anatomy, Walsh-Haney's research involves how water, weather, animals, insects and plants affect estimating time since death as well as the interpretation of traumatic injuries; how traumatic injuries mark the bones of living victims of domestic violence; how to document underwater forensic and archaeological sites; the use of 3D scanning, Ground Penetrating Radar, drones, and odor to locate and document buried bodies and surface scattered remains; the biomechanics of rib fractures in children as evidence of abuse or accidental injury; the documentation of human rights abuses in Guatemala as evidence of feminicide; how human remains detector dogs identify scent thresholds in the process of locating human remains; mass fatalities response; the effectiveness of 3D technology to capture skeletal changes related to trauma; the manifestation of abnormal cranial morphology and axial developmental defects in response to environmental stressors.

Selected Research Grants (1)

Guatemalan Human Rights

Open Society Institute, George Soros Foundation $21,000

2009 Heather Walsh-Haney and Victoria Sanford (of Lehman College) evaluate feminicide cases in Guatemala.

Selected Articles (3)

Kana Tamata or feasts of men: An interdisciplinary approach for identifying cannibalism in prehistoric Fiji

International Journal of Osteoarchaeology

S. Jones, H. Walsh‐Haney, R. Quinn

2012 By integrating osteological, taphonomic, archaeological and stable isotopic data, we test for cannibalism in the Lau Group, Fiji and discuss the potential underlying cause(s) and context(s) of this behaviour. First, we compare taphonomic and element representations of human skeletal material from two contexts in Fiji, examining human bone fragments from archaeological sites, including middens and burials in the Lau Island Group. Fourteen sites produced human remains. Only two of those sites included distinct human burial contexts, but in the remaining 12 sites, the human bone was recovered from middens or contexts where midden was mixed with possible secondary burials. A total of 262 number of identified specimens per species, representing an estimated 15 minimum number of individuals make up the Lau human assemblage. Second, we analysed bones contained in 20 individual human burials from four different sites that are housed at the Fiji Museum for comparative purposes. Third, we examine previously published stable isotopic (δ13C, δ15N) analysis of bone collagen to gauge protein consumption of likely cannibalised humans in midden contexts and potential cannibals from primary burials. We model a cannibalistic diet category within the context of isotopically measured Pacific Islands food groups and apply an isotopic mixing model to gauge plausible dietary contributions from six sources including human flesh. Isotopic mixing models of the Lauan samples illustrate a high diversity in reconstructed diets. The percent contribution of human flesh is low for all individual Lauans. We conclude that mortuary rituals evidenced by sharp‐force trauma may suggest non‐nutritive and non‐violent practices that may have included the consumption of small amounts of human flesh.

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Surgical sutures as a means of identifying human remains

Journal of Forensic Sciences

K. Shepherd, H. Walsh‐Haney, M. Coburn

2010 The Food and Drug Administration does not require surgical sutures to be tracked by manufacturer, physician, or patient; thereby, surgical sutures have been of little use to forensic practitioners who are tasked with establishing a positive identification with biological evidence. This study demonstrates the investigative process used to pinpoint suture manufacturers by presenting a case where surgical sutures were a distinctive characteristic that aided in the positive identification of skeletal remains. The suture’s manufacturer, construction material and structure, size, and medical use was determined by contacting a local surgical suture and orthopedic implant manufacturer and utilizing publicly available manufacturer websites, which provide catalogs and specific product details. This research was one of many lines of evidence used to establish the positive identification of a 47‐year‐old male.

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Recovery of anthropological, botanical, and entomological evidence from buried bodies and surface scatter

Forensic Entomology

H. Walsh-Haney, A. Galloway, J. Byrd

2010 Excavation of buried remains or the recovery of bodies from the surface requires adherence to collection strategies, attention to detail in documentation and recording of data, and understanding of the nature of remains and the taphonomic processes they have encountered during the postmortem interval. Once a crime scene is disturbed, it can never be fully reconstructed. Skeletonized or decomposing remains present particular challenges to recovery due to the effects of segmentation, scattering, and camouflaging that may hinder identification of all the elements.

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