Is this course for you?

The Bone Search and Recovery Short Course is designed for those who have never been involved with a search involving human remains, or those who have limited experience and need some support. It's based on the presentations Yvonne conducted for civilian volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) groups and law enforcement. Many volunteer search organizations only receive training in searching for intact humans. Sometimes people who volunteer for searches don't receive any training at all.

This course offers an accessible way assist searchers everywhere in their efforts.

Course Description

NOTE: This course has been discontinued as of December 31, 2021.

This is a basic, entry-level introduction for civilians, physical anthropology students, and new law enforcement members. This course focuses on the context of outdoor surficially-dispersed remains.

This course aims to increase awareness of the importance of context, what bone looks like, how bone can be camouflaged by the environment, and how animal activity can impact a dead body and influence what may or may not be available for recovery.

This course provides information to help search managers and searchers perform more effective searches so that less time, money, and resources are used to achieve better results.


  • A 2-part video presentation, approx. 50 minutes in total
  • A realistic example situation to test the student's knowledge
  • Accompanying presentation notes
  • A list of further recommended reading
  • Open access versions of Yvonne's thesis and peer-reviewed article on scattered remains

What's covered:

  • What bones look like in a surficial outdoor context
  • Why bones in a surficial outdoor context may scatter / disperse
  • Tips to help searchers discover more remains and items of potential forensic evidence in surficial outdoor settings
  • A definition of context and why it’s important
  • Examples of bone, clothing, and other items of potential forensic evidence
  • An example scenario to apply the learning of the course

What is not covered:

  • There are many ethical implications of using photographs of human remains. One such implication involves the inability to control the use of the photograph once it has been released. As such, this course and any future courses will not include photographs of actual human remains. See this article for more information. 
  • This course focuses on searching for and recovering items of potential forensic evidence, including bone. This course does not include information or instruction on distinguishing human and non-human bone.
  • The course is focused on building awareness rather than capacity. If you are looking to build on your existing searching skills or you wish to build capacity in another new area (ie, cremains), please let me know. It may be possible to build a course to your needs.

What people are saying about this course...

Helpful and informative!

  • Dr. Alexandria Young, forensic archaeologist

As a beginner in this field with no previous knowledge, this course was a great introduction to Bone Search and Recovery. The two keywords that are most important to consider in this course are “observation” and “context.” 

Before drawing any conclusions on any site it is important to look at artifacts in context. These remains may lead to conclusions but only after careful observations within the context. Yvonne covers this very beginning part of gathering evidence so that even a novice will not regret the decisions made at this time. 

Both videos are full of vital information towards the goal of collecting the best information from the sites emphasizing the role of the searcher to find but not identify or make judgements based on the circumstances. All the puzzle pieces at this point are of equal importance. The second video takes the novice through a scenario dissecting what questions the observer will be asking and how information such as the time of year and location affect the gathering of the bones. 

Additional information such as the Additional Readings and access to Yvonne’s thesis further enrich the course and add vital information to further the study of bone search and recovery. 

Any student of bone search and recovery would recognize the value in using this course for a basic or refresher foundation for those beginning or continuing to search. Take notes. Watch the videos again. Ask Yvonne questions. This course has an enormous amount of important information in a short course. Highly recommended. 

  • Paula Hollohan  

Who is Yvonne Kjorlien?

​​Yvonne is an archaeologist and physical anthropologist, practicing as a consultant since 1998. Her area of specialization is scavenged and scattered remains, with a geographic specialization of the boreal forest of Western Canada. 

Her passion is to increase awareness of scavenged and scattered remains through research, collaboration, and knowledge dissemination.

Listen to her podcast "Scattered: One Person's Search for the Story Behind Scattered Remains" on Apple, Spotify, and Google Play.

Check out her website at:

I'm impressed by Yvonne's intelligence, humility despite her own excellence, her gentle but firm manner to effectively manage a team, and how she always keeps what can be a difficult process, very pleasant and even fun.

~ Christa Bedwin