Photo: David CarterDavid O. Carter, Ph.D.

Professor, Forensic Sciences
Director of Forensic Sciences
Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Phone: (808) 739-8352


FS 230 Forensic Sciences
FS 460 Forensic Taphonomy
FS 460L Forensic Taphonomy Laboratory
FS 487 Internship
FS 490 Senior Seminar


Dr. Carter has been interested in death investigation since 1999 and has been attending crime scenes since 2000. Since that time he has consulted with several investigative agencies around the world. His research in the Laboratory of Forensic Taphonomy focuses on the microbial communities associated with corpse decomposition and the estimation of postmortem interval. Dr. Carter is interested in the process of decomposition along with the structure and function of the postmortem human microbiome. Dr. Carter holds funding from the National Institute of Justice serves as a grant reviewer for the National Institute of Justice, the National Science Foundation, and a number of private endowments. He has recently published in high profile journals including Science and eLife, and serves at the national level in the FS community.


B.S. in Anthropology from the University of Idaho in 1999. He earned his M.Sc. in Forensic Archaeology from Bournemouth University in 2001 and his Ph.D. from James Cook University in 2005. Dr. Carter was Assistant and Associate Professor of Forensic Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 2006 until 2012.

Academic Degrees

Ph.D., James Cook University
M.S., Bournemouth University
B.S., University of Idaho

Selected Publications

Kodama WA, Xu Z, Metcalf JL, Song SJ, Harrison N, Knight R, Carter DO, Happy CB (2019) Trace evidence potential in postmortem skin microbiomes: from death scene to morgue. Journal of Forensic Sciences. In Press.

Belk A, Xu ZZ, Carter DO, Lynne A, Bucheli S, Knight R, Metcalf JL (2018) Microbiome data accurately predicts the postmortem interval using random forest regression models. Genes doi:10.3390/genes9020104.

Ribéreau-Gayon A, Carter DO, Regan S (2018) New evidence of predation on humans by cookiecutter sharks in Kauai, Hawaii. International Journal of Legal Medicine. 132:1381-1387.

Ribéreau-Gayon A, Rando C, Morgan RM, Carter DO (2018) The suitability of visual taphonomic methods for digital photographs: an experimental approach with pig carcasses in a tropical climate. Science & Justice. 58:167-176.

Carter DO, Junkins EN, Kodama WA (2017) A primer on microbiology. In: Carter DO, Tomberlin JK, Benbow ME, Metcalf JL, eds. Forensic Microbiology, Wiley Blackwell, Chichester, UK.

Carter DO, Tomberlin JK, Benbow ME, Metcalf JL, editors (2017) Forensic Microbiology. Wiley Blackwell, Chichester, United Kingdom.

Maile AE, Inoue CG, Barksdale LE, Carter DO (2017) Toward a universal equation to estimate postmortem interval. Forensic Science International 272:150-153.

Metcalf JL, Xu ZZ, Bouslimani A, Dorrestein P, Carter DO, Knight R (2017) Microbiome tools for forensic science. Trends in Biotechnology 35:814-823.

Metcalf JL, Carter DO, Knight R (2016) Microbiology of death. Current Biology 26:R543-576.

Metcalf JL, et al. (2016) Microbial community assembly and metabolic function during mammalian corpse decomposition. Science 351:158-162.

Tibbett M, Carter DO, editors (2008) Soil Analysis in Forensic Taphonomy: Chemical and Biological Effects of Buried Human Remains. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA.

Carter DO, Yellowlees D, Tibbett M (2007) Cadaver decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Naturwissenschaften 94:12-24.

Service to the Profession

  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences (Fellow, Pathology/Biology)
  • American Society for Microbiology (Member)
  • International Association for Identification (Associate Member)
  • International Society for Microbial Ecology
  • Organization of Scientific Area Committees – Medicolegal Death Investigation Subcommittee