Human Identification Lab at Chico State

About Us

Mission Statement

The HIL provides quality forensic anthropology services to local, federal, and international law enforcement, medical examiners, and attorneys. 

The HIL is a unique and invaluable state resource. Our staff work to recover missing persons, analyze and identify their remains, present vital information to resolve criminal cases, and provide closure to families. The HIL has the ability to rapidly mobilize large, experienced search teams in emergencies. We also support state and federal partners on individual cases, both recent and long gone cold.

In these ways, we aim to serve the needs of our state while demonstrating our commitment to civic engagement and serving the public good. 


The HIL is staffed by three full-time Chico State professors and one professor emeritus, who work collectively on searches and recoveries as well as in-house laboratory analyses.


The HIL includes microscopy and photography stations, osteometric equipment, and a wet lab with a standard autopsy sink, examination table, three-body mobile morgue, and a dermestid beetle colony. Additionally, a 200 square foot secure evidence room is connected to the laboratory. 

Students work with the photography station in the Human ID LabAdjacent to the HIL is a zooarchaeology lab, containing approximately 2,000 skeletons of nearly 700 different species of fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. This archive has been extremely valuable for its role in identifying non-human skeletal remains believed to be of forensic significance.

The HIL also maintains a Stable Isotope Preparation Laboratory for the analysis of the chemical makeup of organic and inorganic materials. This facility has been used for a variety of anthropological and archaeological research initiatives and for state and federal forensic services. 


The arrival of Dr. Turhon Murad in 1972 saw the development of the academic and applied service of forensic anthropology in Northern California - a service that has since been enhanced with the addition of Dr. P. Willey in 1989 (retired 2017), Dr. Eric Bartelink in 2006, Dr. Colleen Milligan in 2010, and Dr. Ashley Kendell in 2017. 

With our team of two board-certified forensic anthropologists, Chico State remains one of the few programs in North America - and the only University lab in the Western US - of this caliber.