Let’s call him John. John is the fourteenth deer rotting away for the sake of education in the Ooij Polder. Unknown to him, John plays the leading role in Prof. Marcel Dicke’s forensic entomology lecture.
To prepare for Dicke’s lecture, the school’s fourth year class (4 VWO) is participating in ‘An experiment with John’ today. ‘It’s about how to look at a dead body from a forensic researcher’s point of view’, explains lecturer and Wagenigen UR staff member Bram Winkelman. The students hold their breaths… because John smells bad, very bad. The carcass, placed in the polder exactly a week ago, is in an advanced state of decomposition. ‘What you smell, is the smell of decomposed flesh’, explains Winkelman with visible glee. ‘A carcass is simply a part of the food supply in nature’, was his message before that. ‘Who likes fruits? That’s food too.’
Ten thousand maggots
In the meantime, thousands of maggots wriggle about in the carcass. But that's nothing apparently; listen to this: ‘On Sunday, the carcass was white with maggots, perhaps ten thousands of them, but a day earlier, it was almost intact.’ That’s how fast nature can deal with carcasses. Gingerly, the students carry out some tests. They gather maggots and beetles and do soil analyses. What an incredible amount of life John has left behind!
Looking on in the background is Petra Naber from the Educational Institute of Wageningen UR. She has made the lesson possible as a member of the NLT-team. Wageningen University is a major partner of the NLT in promoting beta sciences among the youth. ‘We have developed four out of the twenty lesson modules, and four others are in the pipeline.’ A new NLT season always kicks off with a public lecture. It’s Wageningen’s turn this time. The lecture by Dicke can be followed on Tuesday 29 September between 2 pm and 3.30 pm. By then, John will be a thing of the past.