Long before the Fox network brought TV viewers a crime-fighting Ph.D. who can tell what happened to a victim based on his bones, Kristen Hartnett knew that’s what she wanted to do for a living. She earned her Ph.D. from ASU in 2007 and became a forensic anthropologist, the job she now holds at New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner’s office.
Forensic anthropologists identify victims from skeletal remains and try to figure how their lives ended. Hartnett started her college career studying archaeology, but switched to forensic anthropology when she realized the field could satisfy her interests while making a difference for people in grief.
“I’d been doing archaeology and looking at bones, but I wondered how it mattered,” she recalled. “No one (who is living) would be helped by me digging up a 2,000-year-old Mayan king.” In contrast, her current role lets her help families know what befell loved ones and move through the sad details of loss, such as funerals and insurance paperwork.
Harnett calls her job “a puzzle that sometimes has answers. In archaeology, you may find a tomb, but you never know if your theories are correct. With forensic cases, you do the analysis and, once you fill in the blanks, you can often see how accurate you were.”
Early in her doctoral studies, Harnett began volunteering her skills as a member of a government- sponsored disaster-response team. Through it, she was deployed to identify victims in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
“My work for 9/11 made it clear to me that I did want to do this type of work to give families closure,” she said. Along with their normal caseload, her team continues to work on 9/11 remains. “Everyone killed was issued death certificates, but 41 percent of the missing have not been identified. That’s why we’re still working on it.”
Note: Kathy Reichs first published “Déjà Dead” in 1997. So the character Temperance Brennan still predates this woman getting her degree. Yo, people, books tend to predate the TV series that are based on them.
So… the point of this article was to celebrate Kristen Hartnett’s accomplishment’s after receiving her Ph.D. Yes.. Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist who popularized the field in the public’s eyes “before” Dr. Hartnett finished her degree. The reference to the TV show was not to ignore the Reichs book, but the general public did not read the book and they do know the show “Bones.” As sick as I am of people asking me, “So… so… you’re like BONES?!?!” it is sometimes a necessary evil to help someone quickly understand what I do. There is no reason to reblog and diminish this woman’s amazing contributions to the field just because the show was referenced instead of the book.
In case others didn’t get the point, let me break down some of what this woman has done in the field:
-For her dissertation she extracted hundreds of pubic bones from cadavers and analyzed the symphyseal pubic surface to update the Suchey and Brooks method.
-Those extracted pubic bones are still available at ASU and add to the much needed database of modern human skeletal bones available for analysis.
-She was hired soon after 9/11 to help excavate through the rubble and aid in identifying remains. She continues in this effort even today. She is even willing to talk on the phone to the families of victims to explain the exact procedures used and answer any other questions they have.
-On top of her organization of the 9/11 remains, she works on the current cases that come her way at the OCME. The cases can range from high profile murder cases to something as small as a rib fracture.
-She hasn’t fallen into the trap of working though, and stays active in academia by continuing to publish.
-She has been declared one of the diplomats of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (D-ABFA), which has less than 100 members.
-She teaches part-time at NYU.
-She organizes the forensic anthropology internship program run through the OCME and helps train the interns.
Kathy Reichs isn’t the only forensic anthropologist out there and this should be made aware. I’d say Dr. Hartnett has accomplished quite a bit since receiving her degree in 2007.
Some of Hartnett’s publications:
Artist & Illusrtator:
"Goat Skull Head"
- by Anna K. Osterholtz, Jonathan D. Berthard, Andre Gonciar and Zsolt Nyarad
(Source: AAPAs 2014 Calgary, Canada)
Ankylosing spondylitis in the wrists, forearms, and spinal column
Note the fused wrist bones in the arms, and the abnormal protuberances, fusions, and cavities in the spine.
Ankylosing spondylitis (also known as Bechterew’s disease) is an inflammatory spondyloarthropathy (arthritis affecting the spinal column), and its name comes from the Greek “ankylos-”, meaning “crooked”. Spondylitis can be broken down into “spondyl-” and “-itis”, which mean “spine” and “inflammation”, respectively.
Simply put, it’s a fusion of the joints in the axial skeleton (the spinal column, ribcage, and cervical collar), but there’s little else that’s simple about this condition. While it’s known to have a strong genetic predisposition and heritability, the exact triggers that begin the process of syndesmophytosis (literally "the process of abnormal binding together") which fuse bones together is not known.
While many of the genetic and immune factors in AS similar to those in rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylopathy has been differentiated from other RA conditions as early as the second century CE, by Galen. Because of its effect on the spinal column, AS has long been known as "bamboo spine".
Unfortunately, despite many treatments and therapies being available to counteract the effects of this autoimmune condition on the bones and organs, there is no cure.
Observations on the hip joint: to which are added … other similar complaints. Edward Ford, 1810.
- by John R. Hutchinson, Professor of Evolutionary Biomechanics
“Only two decades ago, when I was starting my PhD studies at the University of California in Berkeley, there was talk about the death of anatomy as a research subject. That hasn’t happened. Instead the science of anatomy has undergone a renaissance lately, sparking renewed interest not just among researchers but also the public.
I may be biased, but examples from my own work, which is a small part of anatomical research, might showcase what I mean. In 2011, my team found out found why elephants have a false “sixth toe”, which had remained a mystery since it was first mentioned in 1710. Last year, with University of Utah researchers, I helped reveal that crocodiles have “bird-like” lungs in which air flows in a one-way loop rather than tidally back and forth as in mammalian lungs. Subsequent work by those colleagues has shown that monitor lizards do this, too.
Researchers have also solved the mystery of how monitor lizards got venom glands. They have discovered that lunge-feeding whales have a special sense organ in their chin that helps them engulf vast amounts of food. And like the whales, it seems crocodiles have sense organs in their jaws, which can detect vibrations in the water. Anatomy has even found gears in nature. Turns out that leafhopper insects have tiny gears in their legs that help in making astounding and precise leaps.
If the scientific examples weren’t enough, there are many from popular TV. British viewers have had the delights of anatomy served to them in a BBC TV series called Secrets of Bones, which concluded in March. American viewers are getting anatomical insights in Your Inner Fish, an ongoing TV series on PBS.
Anatomy’s highs and lows
Apart from an anomalous period in the 20th century, such discoveries have always captivated scientists and the public. From the 16th century until the 19th century, human anatomy was one of the top research fields. Anatomist Jean Francois Fernel, who invented the word “physiology”, wrote in 1542:
Anatomy is to physiology as geography is to history; it describes the theatre of events.
This analogy justified the study of anatomy for many early scientists, some of whom also sought to understand it to bring them closer to understanding the nature of God. Anatomy gained impetus, even catapulting scientists such as Thomas Henry Huxley (“Darwin’s bulldog”) into celebrity status, from the realisation that organisms had a common evolutionary history and thus their anatomy did too. Comparative anatomy became a central focus of evolutionary biology” (read more).
***A fun read.
(Source: The Conversation)
Physical Anthropology Laboratory, 01/29/10
Exploded skull of a walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), early 20th century. This was a popular technique in which preparators cut and spread the cranial bones along their sutures to illustrate the different bones that make up a skull.
A femoral head with a cortex of cortical bone and medulla of trabecular bone. Both red bone marrow and a focus of yellow bone marrow are visible .
What are the differences between red and yellow bone marrow?
Bone marrow is an integral part in the life of a human being, and it functions as the stemming-up region for many of the blood cells, including the red blood cells that carry oxygen from lungs to the other tissues. Furthermore, as it involves the production of white blood cells, which directly impinges on immunity, bone marrow failure can lead to poor immune response and to an increased susceptibility towards infections. Because of these reasons, the bone marrow failure would be detrimental to human life, and it may even lead to fatal outcomes when there is no other way to compensate.
Bone marrow would contain precursor cells from which all other types of cells stem out and would also consist of many of the precursor cells that it had already produced. Apart from these two, the marrow would also consist of matrix cells, as well as fat cells to a certain extent. In a healthy person, the marrow would account for about four percent of the body weight, and it can be classified into red and yellow bone marrow according to its location, color and from the cells that are present in abundance.
The red marrow:
This is the main marrow that gives rise to all the red blood cells, white blood cells and the platelets and is located in the flat bones such as hip bones, skull bone, ribs, breast bone and the vertebrae. During the fetal life and in early childhood, many of the long bones would also contain red marrows, although they become ossified and replaced within few years. But the left over red marrow will prevail throughout life according to the requirements of the human body and would continue to function even when a person reaches the elderly stage. In certain instances, many diseases including cancers, infections and inflammatory conditions can affect the bone marrow and, at times, certain medical treatments such as radiation can also affect the marrow.
The yellow marrow:
Yellow marrow is located in the hollow centers of the long bones, such as in the legs and in the arms, and yellow marrow largely consists of fat cells although it will have a different role from that of normal fat cells. Although the initial bone marrow present in a newborn would be of the red marrow variety, it will be converted into yellow marrow at desired locations by the age of five years.
Basically, these fat cells are the last resort for the body’s energy requirements and can be consumed in an event of extreme hunger. But their important function that is performed in relation to formation of cellular elements is their ability to convert themselves into red marrow in case of large volume blood losses that would deprive the body of oxygen-carrying capacity in certain instances. The yellow marrow, being so efficient, would be able to convert itself within one to two hours to take over the role of red marrow, and this is one of the natural reserves to sustain life in extreme events.
- by Fiona Shapland and Mary E. Lewis
“The assessment of age-at-death in non-adult skeletal remains is under constant review. However, in many past societies an individual’s physical maturation may have been more important in social terms than their exact age, particularly during the period of adolescence. In a recent article (Shapland and Lewis: Am J Phys Anthropol 151 (2013) 302–310) highlighted a set of dental and skeletal indicators that may be useful in mapping the progress of the pubertal growth spurt. This article presents a further skeletal indicator of adolescent development commonly used by modern clinicians: cervical vertebrae maturation (CVM). This method is applied to a collection of 594 adolescents from the medieval cemetery of St. Mary Spital, London. Analysis reveals a potential delay in ages of attainment of the later CVM stages compared with modern adolescents, presumably reflecting negative environmental conditions for growth and development. The data gathered on CVM is compared to other skeletal indicators of pubertal maturity and long bone growth from this site to ascertain the usefulness of this method on archaeological collections” (read more/open access).
(Open access source: American Journal of Physical Anthropology 153:144-153, 2014)
Cribra femora - porotic bone area on the anterior collum femoris - in a child (12 years old). This kind of pathological change usually indicates metabolic disorders, such as anemia.
Degenerative changes of superior articular facets in lumbar vertebra (spondylarthrosis lumbalis).
I captured the holy grail: eburnation on photo!
Severe osteoarthritis in the thumb: trapezium and proximal metacarpal 1 are affected. Presence of eburnation, joint contour deformation, and osteophytic lipping.