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Dr. Devin Finaughty

Dr Devin Finaughty is a forensic anthropologist/taphonomist by trade with a particular interest in the decomposition ecosystem. South African-born, I am presently based at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, as a Lecturer in Biological Anthropology (specialising in forensic taphonomy). I have three degrees covering human physiology and anatomy, zoology, entomology and biological anthropology – all from UCT. I am a proud alumnus of CABA: my academic home between 2012 and 2019. All my postgraduate training was completed under the supervision of Professor Emeritus Alan G. Morris. For my MSc/PhD, I set up the first taphonomic research program in the Western Cape and established baseline data on soft-tissue decomposition in this globally unique biogeographic region. The impetus for this research arose from my experience in forensic casework through CABA’s Forensic Anthropology Cape Town (FACT) laboratory, where the need to provide clear and accurate answers to the questions asked by the medicolegal fraternity was impressed upon me. It is, thus, no surprise that I am an advocate of stakeholder- and end-user inclusivity in the research process to facilitate the development of meaningful solutions to society’s most pressing problems.

My research seeks to decode the complexities of decomposition to help construct comprehensive predictive models of decay to inform more accurate estimates of time-since-death for the medicolegal industry – an oft-sought outcome in forensic death investigations. Achieving this broad and ambitious goal requires an integrative, transdisciplinary approach with collaboration at its heart. As such, my research activities comprise multiple collaborations with colleagues in numerous countries.

At UCT, I enjoy a strong and highly productive collaboration with Associate Professor Victoria Gibbon which includes projects investigating forensically significant scavenger ecology, textile decay, the effect of clothing on decomposition, and automation of taphonomic data collection – the latter a world-first initiative. I have additional collaborative projects with Dr Marise Heyns in the Department of Pathology (with a forensic entomology focus) and Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turin in the Department of Biological Sciences (with a palaeotaphonomy focus).

I am presently building my collaborator base in the UK and am working with colleagues from Cranfield University, Northumbria University, and my home institution – Kent – to develop new projects in scavenger ecology and automation of taphonomic data collection. I have also recently been invited onto a multi-year, multi-institutional bioarchaeology project where I am developing the marine taphonomy component.

I am excited to re-join CABA in my new role as a Honorary Research Affiliate and I look forward to strengthening the Kent-UCT collaboration – creating new opportunities for student- and knowledge exchange and together advancing the universal pursuit of justice.