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Not only is it the busy end of semester for University of Wisconsin Oshkosh anthropology professor Jordan Karsten, but also a hectic time with calls from authorities seeking his assistance.

One of the cases relates to the April 27 discovery of human remains in a marshy area of Little Lake Butte des Morts at Fox Crossing in Winnebago County.

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office worked with the county’s medical examiner’s office and with Karsten to try and make an identification.

Due to the state of the remains, “we are actively employing other identification protocols—DNA, further forensic examination and other biological testing—are all part of those efforts, but these procedures take time,” a post Monday night by the Sheriff’s office stated.

Other evidence has helped determine the potential identity of the person, and the family of the person has been “tentatively” notified, the sheriff’s office said, adding they will not release more information until evidence supports it.

Karsten said he finds satisfaction in helping obtain answers.

Funding obtained from the UWO Office of Student Research and Creative Activity allows him to hire a student research assistant who will be able to assist with unsolved cases.

Jordan Karsten (right) on a dig site in Winnebago County.

Ability to bring closure

UWO students who are interested in learning about forensic methods with the opportunity to work on real cases have the chance through the department’s new Forensic Investigation Certificate program—offered 100% online or 100% in person.

Some of the skills students will develop are photographic and videographic documentation, human skeletal analysis, legal requirements for evidence, soil sourcing and taphonomy.

“This program is perfect for people who like to contribute to solving mysteries, tackling complex questions, utilizing cutting-edge science and contributing to the pursuit of justice,” Karsten said.

Junior and senior anthropology students were part of a summer-long search Karsten organized in 2021 for the missing remains of Starkie Swenson, who had been killed nearly 40 years previously. The remains turned up Sept. 29, 2021, at High Cliff State Park near Chilton.

Karsten is co-host of a podcast, Cold Case: Frozen Tundra. The first season highlighted the Swenson disappearance; the second season focused on Laurie Depies, who disappeared from a parking lot in August 1992 and not seen again. He is hopeful to begin a third season in the coming months.

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