Human Identification Lab at Chico State

The Work of the HIL


The HIL provides hands-on training to community members and law enforcement agencies and personnel – including public lectures, demonstrations of field recovery methods, and workshops. Faculty are certified instructors for California’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Homicide Courses and assist in up to 12 courses annually in addition to a variety of stand-alone trainings on excavation methods, human remains recovery, search and rescue, and bone identification.

Our graduate students also host an annual Forensic Conference at Chico State. Professionals across the state and country are invited to join this two-day event, open to students and the community, to network and share research and knowledge of the latest developments in forensic anthropology.

Finally, we are committed to quality education for the next generation of forensic professionals. Through degree and certificate programs(opens in new window), we prepare students for work in labs state- and nation-wide with a 100% placement rate. 

Emergency Response

The HIL provides invaluable emergency response to California disasters, including initial search and rescue/recovery. In some special cases, including the infamous Camp Fire, HIL alumni were able to mobilize and respond quickly and efficiently. Recent responses include: 

  • 2018 Camp Fire Colleen presenting on HIL Camp Fire response in Sacramento
  • 2018 Carr Fire 
  • 2017 Yuba County Fire
  • 2017 Mendocino Complex Fire
  • 2015 Valley Fire
  • 2014 Orland I-5 Bus Crash 
  • 2010 San Bruno Pipeline Explosion


The HIL faculty and staff, including graduate students, have a variety of research initiatives and all three faculty members publish on topics of forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology regularly. Please visit our Team(opens in new window) page to find out more about our faculty and their research interests. 

We have two separate, ongoing projects in partnership with the Department of Defense - both involving repatriation of veteran remains. The first makes use of the HIL's stable isotope lab and expertise to sort the remains of US soldiers killed during service from other remains and the second is a private contract to investigate several Poland plane crashes suspected to be related to missing-in-action veterans. 

For several years, HIL faculty have been working on an interdisciplinary study in conjunction with Chico State's Geographical Information Center. Funded by the National Institute of Justice, faculty and graduate students conducted research along the Sacramento River to establish predictable patterns in drowning cases and then create an app to aid law enforcement in decreasing recovery time. Read "Finding Answers in the River"(opens in new window) at Chico State Today.