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Lisa Briggs - Western Carolina University. Cullowhee, NC, US

Lisa Briggs

Professor, Director of Emergency and Disaster Management | Western Carolina University


Lisa Briggs specializes in forensic based criminology with a focus on missing persons, as well as the use of scent detection K9s.




Lisa Briggs Publication Lisa Briggs Publication



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Briggs has been a criminologist for more than 20 years, and for almost the past decade she has been specializing in forensic based criminology with a focus on missing persons, as well as the use of scent detection K9s and human decomposition.

Briggs is a full, tenured professor of criminology and criminal justice at Western Carolina University, she is the director of the Emergency and Disaster Management Program, as well as the WCU Cadaver Dog Training Program director.

Briggs is past president of the State of North Carolina Criminal Justice Association (NCCJA), as well as the past secretary of the North Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association. She is also on the board, and an instructor, for the DuPont Rescue Challenge.

She holds a Ph.D. in Crime and Deviance, a Master of Public Affairs, as well as a Master of Science. She has field experience in law enforcement and criminal justice and has taught at several major universities including University of Connecticut, NC State University, East Tennessee State University and Western Carolina University. She has been recognized as being one of the top educators in the state of North Carolina by the Governor.

She is a committed educator and has been recognized by receiving several teaching awards as well as service engagement awards at different universities particularly because of her dedication to serving the community and the field of criminal justice. While as an educator she is committed to “boots on the ground” involvement, her current research focus is on presenting conference papers, conducting experiments and research studies, and writing publications on the science of human decomposition and the use of scent detection canines.

She is the author of more than 30 academic publications including text books, peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Importantly, she merges her commitment to education with her passion of being a successful human recovery canine handler and trainer. Briggs actively serves on criminal cases at either the federal, state or local level, and has been specifically involved in many high-profile cases. She is a TAC for The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and she “vets” K9 teams to be utilized by NCMEC. Briggs deploys often across the country on missing person’s and missing children cases and combined work from one of her four own personal HRD K9s has recovered 29 victims as of early 2022.

Industry Expertise (3)



Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (5)

Crime and Deviance

Forensic Based Criminology


Missing Persons

Scent Detection K9s

Accomplishments (1)

UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching (professional)


Education (4)

North Carolina State University at Raleigh: Ph.D.

North Carolina State University at Raleigh: M.S.

Western Carolina University: M.P.A., Public Affairs

Western Carolina University: B.S.

Affiliations (2)

  • North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations Human Remains Task Force : Member
  • DuPont Rescue Challenge : Board member

Languages (1)

  • English

Media Appearances (6)

Cadaver dogs are in Maui to help find the dead. Here’s how it works and why it’s difficult

CNN  online


Lisa Briggs, a forensic criminologist who specializes in the use of human remains detection dogs, told CNN not all human remains detection dogs have the same skills – and the dogs in Maui would need to be imprinted specifically on burnt remains in order to search effectively. “This disaster demonstrates why we need to conduct the science and have the specific proper training in order to be successful,” Briggs said.

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WCU cadaver dog training program wins professional development award

The Sylva Herald  online

Western Carolina University’s human remains detection cadaver dog training program was awarded the 2022 University Professional and Continuing Education Association award for special populations at the UPCEA South Conference in Atlanta. This award recognizes outstanding professional development programs offered by universities across the southeast. WCU’s HRD cadaver dog program, which is under the direction of Lisa Briggs, director of WCU’s emergency and disaster management program, has been offered at WCU since 2011.

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WCU fire investigation training contributes to community, law enforcement, public safety

WCU Stories  online


The K9 handlers had come from across the United States and abroad for the university’s highly specialized detection dog training, conducted annually by Lisa Briggs, professor and director of WCU’s Emergency and Disaster Management Program. This particular session – coinciding with the fire training – was a rare opportunity for handlers to build the necessary foundational skills to recover victims who perish in accidental fires or arson, Briggs said.

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6 years since disappearance of James Martin Roberts, information still sought

WataugaOnline.com  online


Two separate teams of specialized human remains detection (HRD) dog teams have been used during this investigation. The use of these trained dogs allows searchers to cover more ground efficiently. One of these teams were used for land and another for water. The NC State Bureau of Investigation’s HRD dog teams helped search multiple land area locations on multiple dates. The Boone Police Department has also utilized Dr. Lisa Briggs’ HRD dog team. Dr. Briggs is a Criminologist with Western Carolina University and she owns a highly successful HRD dog named “Layla.” Layla is specially trained to search for human remains contained within bodies of water. Layla was used to search two bodies of water near the Blue Ridge Parkway. The North Catawba Fire & Rescue Dive Team again assisted with their personnel and equipment to assist in these water searches.

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Cowee Fire Department boasts state recognized K9 Search and Rescue Team

Macon County News  online


“We have partnered with Edwin Grant from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Dr. Lisa Briggs from Western Carolina University,” said Pendergrass. “They have both joined our department along with their K-9s. This brings our current trained K-9 total to six, with two more about to begin Air Scent Training.”

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Macon County gets state-recognized K9 Search and Rescue Team at Cowee Fire Department

The Southern Scoop  online


“We have partnered with Edwin Grant from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Dr. Lisa Briggs from Western Carolina University,” said Pendergrass. “They have both joined our department along with their K-9s. This brings our current trained K-9 total to six, with two more fixing to begin Air Scent Training.”

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Articles (1)

D.RA.MA: An Extended Conceptualization of Student Anxiety in Criminal Justice Research Methods Courses

Journal of Criminal Justice Education

2009 The challenges of teaching research methods and statistics to students majoring in criminology and criminal justice are well known. The professor has to deal with an array of obstacles among students, including Disinterest, Relevance Argumentation (viewing statistical skills as detached from the “real world”) and Math Anxiety (D.RA.MA).

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