Saturday, November 4, 2023

8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Cost: FREE (sponsored by Virginia Department of Emergency Management)

Human vs. Non-human 

Bone ID Workshop 

for First Responders

Henrico Training Center

7701 E. Parham Road, Henrico, Virginia 23228

This training opportunity is sponsored by:

Virginia Department of Emergency Management

Commonwealth of Virginia Search and Rescue


This workshop is FREE and open to all agencies in the central Virginia region. It is a resource for law enforcement, fire/rescue, park rangers, and search and rescue personnel to learn how to differentiate between human and non-human bones.

The workshop includes an in-person presentation utilizing real and replica human and non-human bones that participants will be able to examine up close and in-hand. The class will focus on the differences between white-tail deer and human bones as well as actual examples of many other animals commonly found in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Dig through boxes of bones from Virginia wildlife


Comparative osteology


Use printed and online resources to ID bones





Learn to differentiate human from non-human bones



The Instructors

Jim Russell

VDEM Adjunct Instructor

Cath Bennion

VDEM Adjunct Instructor

Mary Beth Danuser

VDEM Adjunct Instructor

 Jim Russell owns and operates IS IT HUMAN, LLC and has been an active member of the Commonwealth of Virginia Search and Rescue (COVSAR) program since 2014.

He is the Director of the Search and Rescue Tracking Institute (SARTI) and the Group Commander of Tidewater Search and Rescue (TSAR) as well as the group’s Virginia Search and Rescue Council (VASARCo) representative, dispatcher, and recruiter.

Jim holds certifications as a Search Team Leader (STL), Management Team Member (MTM), and Tracking Technician (TT) from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM).

In 2019, Jim became a VDEM Adjunct Instructor for the Virginia Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) Academy and has been part of the instructor cadre for the Tracking Team Operations (formerly called F.A.S.T.) class, Search Team Operations class, and the Search Team Leadership class.

In addition to his instruction with VDEM, Jim is a recurring presenter at the Virginia Search and Rescue Conference providing classes in land navigation, human tracking, and comparative osteology.

Also in 2019, Jim launched The Russell Bone Atlas (, a free comparative osteology website that first responders can use while in the field to help identify bones. He has also been researching and developing his own workshops for comparative osteology, comparing and identifying human and non-human bones that are found during searches. He has attended comparative osteology workshops at Radford University, Western Carolina University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

IS IT HUMAN, LLC is a provider of educational and training events and printed materials to search and rescue, law enforcement, fire/rescue, and park rangers.

The Venue

Henrico Training Center

7701 E. Parham Rd., Henrico, VA

The Training Center opened in 1998 so county agencies would have access to a central training and meeting location to support their operation and ensure the successful future of Henrico County. The first two floors consist of approximately 60,000 square feet of building space and provide state-of-the-art classrooms, offices and multi-use areas. The Divisions of Police and Fire, along with the Office of the Sheriff and the Human Resource Department, each have designated training rooms and staff offices. The Department of Public Relations operates Henrico County Television (HCTV) from this location. All county departments have access to the shared classrooms and computer lab. Human Resources also provides an employee wellness program that allows permanent county employees and retirees the use of the weight and workout facility.

The entrance to this facility is located on Shrader Road.



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