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Jessica McLawhorn

Graduate Student

M.A. in Anthropology

View CV 


I graduated Cum Laude from Western Carolina University (WCU) on May 11, 2019, with a GPA of 3.630 and an area-specific GPA of 3.910 and received a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology (Forensic).

She is continuing her education through earning her M.A. degree and eventually her Ph.D. in biological anthropology with a concentration in forensic anthropology. Her end goal is to be a board-certified forensic anthropologist.

Research Publications

Book Publications:

Zejdlik KJ, NV Passalacqua, JA Williams. The Forensic Osteology Research Station (FOREST) at Western Carolina University. In Press. In: Sorg MA (editor) Forensic Taphonomy. This is a book chapter for a book not yet published. I will update more as information is received. Description: Jessica completed a research project in her Taphonomy class on the effects of soil pH on skeletal decomposition. Her professor, Dr. Nicholas V. Passalacqua, was impressed with her research, and within his chapter of the book, will cite Jessica’s research and thank her within the acknowledgments.

Journal Publications:

Coryann Collins, Cayley Johnson, Jessica McLawhorn, Nicholas V. Passalacqua, Katie Zejdlik, Christine Bailey, and John A. Williams, “The John A. Williams Documented Human Skeletal Collection,” Artifacts, Bones, and Discourse (ABD) Journal, 2019 Description: Jessica contributed demographic research information that was included within this Forensic Journal article.


The Effects of Soil pH on Skeletal Decomposition
Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 2017
Taphonomy research project
• The research that I have conducted on the effects of soil and sand pH on skeletal decomposition has never been completed before.
• Researchers have taken soil and sand pH levels and used soil chemistry for forensic analysis, but this was the first time that pH levels were the primary focus.
• This research aimed to understand better the decomposition of bone in soil based on pH in a short period of time.

Metal as a Ritual
Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 2018
Ethnography research project
• My research ethnography was about metal music culture as a ritual.
• This was done both as an audio and photography documentary.
• Interviews and transcriptions were also completed.

Cemetery Excavation Proposal
Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 2018
Bioarchaeology research project
• Devised a strategy for the excavation of a chosen cemetery
• The cemetery I researched for the hypothetical excavation was the Hooper-Speedwell Cemetery.
• The reason for proposing this cemetery excavation was to give those in unmarked burials an identity.
• I discussed the skeletal research I would want to conduct following the hypothetical cemetery excavation.

Poster Presentation:

“The John A. Williams Documented Human Skeletal Collection,” Research and Scholarship Celebration, 2019.



B.S. (Cum Laude) Anthropology Western Carolina University May 2019

Area(s) of Expertise

Her areas of interest for future research are growth and development, faunal analysis, sex and age estimations for sub-adults and adults, taphonomy, skeletal bone trauma analysis, cranial and postcranial stature estimations, anatomical variations, and skeletal biology.