Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Forensic Anthropology Option)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Molecular Anthropology

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Meradeth Snow

Commitee Members

Dr. Randall Skelton, Dr. Mark Heirigs


Molecular Anthropology, biological sex estimation


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Biological and Physical Anthropology | Forensic Science and Technology


The use of DNA in forensic science has become an integral tool for victim and perpetrator identifications, missing person’s cases, paternity testing, etc. A major use of DNA is in the identification of unknown deceased individuals. With a reported number of individuals well over 8,000 in the United States, improved methods to accurately collect and analyze DNA from modern human bone are needed.

This project took the preliminary steps to improve DNA sampling and extraction methods by analyzing the Y-chromosome DNA yield from the two bone types. While both types are composed of the same materials, cortical bone is the tightly packed bone on the outer layer, and trabecular is the sponge-like bone located inside. The yields observed in cortical and trabecular bone samples in a set of human remains could help determine what type of samples need to be taken for successful DNA analysis. Samples were collected from various locations throughout the skeleton from each of the two bone types and subjected to quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analysis. qPCR determines the amount of DNA in each sample. The averages from each bone type were compared to determine if one type preserves DNA better.

The preliminary data collected from this project has provided a stepping stone in the right direction to improve how DNA sampling from modern human remains is done. Further research on this topic must be done to increase the validity of the results and affect the current methods used.



© Copyright 2022 Mykala D. Ward