HuCS ID lab

The HuCS-ID Lab is a forensic bioanthropology research lab. We use our expertise to improve a wide variety of skeletal identification methods, including those that present some of the toughest challenges in the field - like craniofacial identification. Our goal is to advance the ease, accuracy and reliability of skeletal identification in the medicolegal context.

Our work crosses both academics and applied science. We hold, for example, a long and valued track-record of work with the USA’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to assist their noble mission of the fullest possible accounting of missing USA service members.

We work very closely with SBMS’s Gross Anatomy Facility (GAF) and this includes management the GAF’s Skeletisation Program and SBMS Library of Skeletons from indefinite (Type 2) body donors who consent to their body being considered for use in the program. These skeletons are available to our team members and collaborators for study and research.

Interests and expertise

Human Identification, Skeletal Identification, Forensic Anthropology, Physical Anthropology, Skeletal Analysis, Osteology, Anatomy, Human variation, Radiographic Comparison, Osteometric Sorting, Mass Graves, Sex estimation, Age estimation, Ancestry estimation, Stature estimation, Trauma, Craniofacial Identification, Skull, Face, Facial approximation, Craniofacial superimposition.

Shape Analysis, Morphometrics, Anthropometry, 3D Scanning, Stereophotogrammetry, Geometric Morphometrics, Elliptical Fourier Analysis.

Medical Imaging, Ultrasound, Radiography, X-Rays, Optics, Photography.

R, Biostatistics, Mechatronics.

Facilities

The HuCS-ID Lab is well-equipped with the usual precision instruments of osteometric boards, callipers and other standard anthropometry devices and we use only internationally recognized manufacturers (such as GPM, Mopec). Instruments are routinely performance checked in-house under an annual quality assurance program and using an array of calibrated test artefacts to ensure measurement validity for scientific studies and casework.

The laboratory holds a broad range of 3D scanning devices to include: Artec Spider, Einscan, Next Engine, and Di3D Stereophotogrammetry. The Di3D equipment, used for instantaneous 3D acquisition of human faces, is operated in a separate dedicated video green-room.

Professional-grade camera equipment is used throughout the laboratory, including Canon 6D and Nikon D780 full-frame DSLRs, mounted on copy stands for detailed skeletal photography.

Being on UQ St Lucia Campus, we are only just down the road (200m) from the UQ Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI), which offers a large array of medical imaging technology and is where we undertake our CT and MRI scans for research.

The HuCS-ID Lab works closely with the SBMS Gross Anatomy Facility (GAF) and its anatomical resources, so much so, that our forensic anthropology lab is physically embedded in the GAF to ensure seamless workflow under the Transplantation and Anatomy Act, Qld (1979). The UQ School of Anatomy is one of the largest anatomy Schools in Australia and it is the only school of its kind in the country to operate a whole-of-body skeletisation program for eligible indefinite donors.

Introduction

Anthropological instruments

Scan capabilities

 

The HuCS-ID lab has developed several specialised data resources that that students can leverage for their research studies/degrees in craniofacial or skeletal identification. These resources additionally facilitate advanced subject matter workshops to industry / government, per consultancies arranged through UQ’s Consulting and Research Expertise unit, CoRE.

The resources include two sets of ultra-resolution medical images (MR and CT) for studying craniofacial anatomy and a specialized library of skeletons with matching pre-skeletisation radiographs (as pertinent to identification).

AP Stephan also curates the Collaborative Facial Soft Tissue Depth Data Store (at CRANIOFACIALidentification.com), which is an open-access, free, and online data resource for all craniofacial identification practitioners to use.

Further details on these resources can be found below.

HuCS-ID CT & MR Head Dataset (Decedents)

This resource comprises both CT and MR scans of a subset of 70 body donors to UQ’s anatomy program. Each subject in this database is represented by five scans: one axial CT, one sagittal CT, and three sets of 3T MRIs (T1-weighted MRI, T2-weighted MRI and PETRA ultrashort echo time). The scan resolutions are ultra-high to provide exquisite anatomical detail (0.5 mm slice thickness for each of the CTs and 0.65 mm slice thickness for most MRIs).

This dataset holds the advantage that the CT slice thicknesses are very thin and exist for the full length of the head. Such scans are not typically attainable for living subjects in the applied clinical setting where the high-resolution parameters cause the scans to exceed acceptable radiation dose limits.

All scans are acquired at UQ’s Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI) using their latest Siemens equipment/software (Biograph Horizon CT scanner and Magnetrom Prisma 3T).

Data collection began in 2023 and will be complete in 2024.

CT and MR machines used for data collection at the CAI

CT and MR machines used for data collection at the CAI

CT and MR machines used for data collection at the CAI.


HuCS-ID MR Head Dataset (Living Persons)

This resource (soon to be acquired) will comprise three 3T MRI scans of each of approx. 200 living subjects: T1-weighted MRI, T2-weighted MRI and PETRA ultrashort echo time. The scan resolutions are ultra-high (0.65 mm slice thickness [as per the decedent database]) to provide exquisite anatomical detail. 

All scans are acquired at UQ’s Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI) using their latest Siemens Magnetrom Prisma 3T whole body MR.

Data collection for this resource is anticipated to occur during 2024.

T1-weighted MRI image of a living subject
Example T1-weighted MRI image of a living subject (used to set standard scan protocols for the dataset). Image by: T. Hona (HuCS-ID Lab) and N. Atcheson (CAI), 2023.

SBMS Skeletal Collection

This data resource comprises radiographs and skeletons belonging to a subset of Type II (indefinite) body donors to the UQ Body Donor and Anatomy program.

The dry skeletons are 100% traceable to single individuals of origin, and each is accompanied by 8-10 standard radiographs taken prior to skeletisation and all are ethically resourced through the UQ Body Donor Program. These three attributes set this collection apart from other skeletal collections available in the global domain.

Example skeleton from the SBMS Skeletal Collection
Example skeleton from the SBMS Skeletal Collection.
Image reproduced from:  Stephan, C. N., Caple, J. M., Veprek, A., Sievwright, E., Kippers, V., Moss, S., & Fisk, W. (2017). Complexities and Remedies of Unknown-provenance Osteology. In N. Pather & G. Strkalj (Eds.), Commemorations and Memorials in Anatomy: Tribute to the Giver (pp. 65-95).

The Collaborative Facial Soft Tissue Depth Data Store (C-Table)

The C-table represents a publicly available and centralised online repository of anonymized raw facial soft tissue depth data for the field of craniofacial identification. It is free to access and separately maintained and updated on a continuing basis by Associate Professor Stephan. Currently, the repository holds data contributed by 20 different research teams (see the C-Table website for details), representing >1,700 individuals collected at up to 25 standardized craniofacial landmarks.

The C-Table is available at CRANIOFACIALidentification.com.

C-Table

The HuCS-ID Lab publishes in leading forensic science and biological anthropology journals.

Examples include:
The International Journal of Legal Medicine, The American Journal of Biological Anthropology, The Journal of Forensic Sciences, Forensic Science International, Science & Justice, and Forensic Imaging.

Group Head

Students


GAF Staff Collaborators


Spotlight on HuCS-ID student alumni

JodiDr Jodi Caple 

Obtained her PhD in 2018, graduating with 6 paper outputs from the PhD and received one of three Dean’s Awards for an Outstanding Thesis. Dr Caple now works as a Forensic Anthropologist & Postdoctoral Research Associate with SNA International at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, HI, USA.

Dr Hayley Fancourt

HayleyHayley graduated with a First Class Honours in Science (2017). Hayley published one paper during her Honours year (FSI) and another one following degree completion (JFS). Hayley attained both the highest score for her final research presentation and won the Michael F. Hickey Memorial Honours Prize (highest overall Honours grade for the SBMS in that year). Hayley recently graduated Medicine from the Australian National University, where she also worked part time as an Anatomy Technical Officer.


Lab alumni

PhD

  • Telena Hona: Correlations of human facial soft tissue thickness with body mass in sub-adults and adults as revealed by lateral radiographs and MRI 
  • Sean Healy: Craniofacial superimposition: Can machine learning improve focus distance estimation from real-world facial photographs 
  • Jeffrey Lynch: Computerized methods for de-commingling mixed human skeleton assemblages: New Automated Approaches Using Centroid Banding
  • Jodi CapleFourier Analysis of Lateral Cranial Profiles for Predicting Sex and Ancestry in Forensic Anthropology

Honours

  • Robert Humphrey: An anatomical CT investigation of the eyeball relationships to the bony orbit (active 2024)
  • Lachlan McInerney: The anatomical accuracy of mouth width estimation methods from the skull: Validation tests using 3D medical scans (active 2024)
  • Jithya Joshy: A craniometric dataset to help detect South Asian skulls and filter their intake into Anatomy Teaching Schools 
  • Suhail Askarzai: Anatomy of the fibularis tertius muscle and its variation in a sizable cadaver sample 
  • Sean Healy: Improving identification for forensic craniofacial superimposition: The accuracy of subject-to-camera distance estimation from human face anatomy recorded in frontal and profile images.
  • Tom Beresford: How good are 3D optical scanners and photogrammetry for scientific analysis of human bone anatomy?
  • Te Wai Pounamu Telena HonaAccuracies of Radiographic Comparison for Skeletal Identification
  • Brianna Armstrong: Testing the accuracy of subject-to-camera distance estimation in craniofacial superimposition using palpebral fissure length
  • Madeline Ashton: DNA tracking for embalmed specimens 
  • Chelsea Olditch: Radiographic Comparison for Human Identification
  • Brandon MeiklePatterns of Facial Soft Tissue Thicknesses as Measured in Large Samples by Ultrasound
  • Jennifer AtkinsThe utility of infracranial methods for sex and age estimation of contemporary Australians
  • Hayley FancourtPairwise matching of commingled long bones: a computerized approach using 3D elliptical Fourier analysis
  • Redmond LopezSex and Ancestry Variation of the Extracranial Space
  • Ashleigh YeapCharacterisation of Facial Muscle Morphology from Bony Attachments
  • Emma SievwrightDo Craniometrics Correlate with Facial Soft Tissue Thicknesses in a Living Adult Australian Sample
  • Lachlan MunnPosture and Expression Effects on Face Typology as Mapped by 3D Stereophotogrammetry for Forensic Face Identification
  • Rory Preisler: The effect of Posture on Facial Soft Tissue Depths, Shorths and Shormaxes – Using B-mode Ultrasound
  • Jodi CapleFacial Soft Tissue Thicknesses of Australian Juveniles: Analysis of the Computed Tomography Tangent Method

February 2024

January 2024

December 2023

  • Congratulations to Sean Healy on winning 2023’s SBMS Student Research Excellence Award at the recently held SBMS Awards Night!
  • HuCS-ID Lab students present 3 papers at this year’s Australasian Society of Human Biology (ASHB) Conference in Brisbane – well done Sean, Telena and Jithya.

  • Congratulations to Jithya Joshy on obtaining the runners-up prize for Best Student Presentation at ASHB, Brisbane, on her talk concerning medical teaching skeletons!

November 2023

October 2023

  • Congratulations Jithya on obtaining the second highest mark in the SBMS Honours cohort for your final report seminar! Talk title: “A craniometric dataset to help detect South Asian skulls and filter their intake into Anatomy Schools”

  • The latest 2023 composite (c) score based on Scopus data has just been released placing Carl’s work in the top 0.3% of all forensic scientists who hold: a) more than 5 paper publications; and b) a top ranked Science-Metrix category of Legal & Forensic Medicine. USA rank = 14th, worldwide rank = 77th when Legal & Forensic Medicine is either the first OR second Science-Metrix category. Reference: Ioannidis, John P.A. (2023), “October 2023 data-update for "Updated science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicators"”, Elsevier Data Repository, V6, doi: 10.17632/btchxktzyw.6

September 2023

  • PhD students in the Lab strike a record with 3 papers accepted in IJLM within one month!!! Way to go Sean and Telena!

July 2023

  • The HuCS-ID Lab hosted the 7th Masterclass Training in Chest Radiograph Comparison for DPAA analysts onsite at UQ (St Lucia and Herston Campuses).

April 2023

March 2023

  • HuCS-ID Lab begins new work establishing the first of two new hallmark head datasets comprised of medical images that will provide unrivalled research resources in craniofacial ID for the future.

This first dataset, the HuCS-ID CT & MRI Head Dataset (Decedents), comprises 5x 3D scans of 70 decedent heads (2x different CT protocols and 3x different 3T MR protocols all at the super-resolution of 0.5-0.65mm slice thickness!).

The second dataset, HuCS-ID MR Head Dataset (Living Persons), will be initiated later this year (3x different 3T MR protocols all at the super-resolution of 0.5-0.65mm slice thickness).

These data provide outstanding opportunities for new PhD students. Sign up now!

February 2023

  • Congratulations to Telena Hona on her receipt of a 2023 Pollitzer Student Travel Grant to attend the next American Association of Biological Anthropologists (AABA) Meeting in Reno, USA!

  • Fancourt et al. (2021) paper on commingling has been recognized by Wiley as a JFS Top Cited paper for 1 Jan 2021-15 Dec 2022 (Clarivate Analytics)

January 2023

  • The HuCS-ID Lab is celebrating its 10th year at UQ and in SBMS this month.

  • The HuCS-ID Lab hosted the 6th CXR Masterclass Training for DPAA analysts onsite UQ at St Lucia and Herston Campuses. Jump to DPAA’s Linkedin post on the training.

December 2022

October 2022

  • The HuCS-ID Lab is now accepting Honours Research applications for 2023.

A number of forensic anthropology and anatomy projects are on offer. Contact the Lab Head, Assoc Prof Stephan, for more information.

  • HuCS-ID Lab, with Telena Hona as lead author, publishes in Forensic Imaging—the first paper in the journal’s history to receive, from all three expert reviewers, “a publish with no corrections”!

Notified by Dr Thomas Ruder, Associate Editor, Forensic Imaging

September 2022

July 2022

  • AP Stephan’s Best Scientific Abstract Award at the 19th International Association of Craniofacial Identification Meeting (2022) was received by Seppe Goovaerts (Belgium) and colleagues for the abstract “Multivariate GWAS identifies 30 independent genetic loci involved in normal-range 3D cranial vault shape”.

May 2022 

  • The HuCS-ID Lab hosted the 5th CXR Masterclass Training for DPAA analysts onsite UQ at St Lucia and Herston Campuses.

August 2018