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Research Associates

The Museum is a state and federal collections repository for paleontological and archaeological materials collected on both public lands and from the private sector. The Museum’s repository is home to hundreds of thousands of artifacts and fossils from southern Nevada. These important materials are preserved, stored, researched and often exhibited at the Museum.

Research Associates: Meet the Team

Dr. Brett Riddle

Brett R. Riddle is a Professor in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His research focuses primarily on the history of biodiversity in western North America, with ongoing projects including: historical assembly of the warm desert biotas; phylogeography of Great Basin montane island biotas; and molecular systematics and biogeography of diverse North American rodent groups. He is cofounder and past President of the International Biogeography Society, an editor of the Journal of Biogeography, and and associate editor of Systematic Biology. He is a coauthor of "Biogeography: third edition", Sinauer Associates - the most comprehensive available textbook and reference book on Biogeography.


Dr. Frankie Jackson

Frankie Jackson is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University. Her research interests include the study of fossil eggs, paleoecology, and the evolution of reproductive traits within the dinosaur-to-bird transition.  The arrangement of fossil eggs and the microscopic characteristics of their eggshells provide important information about dinosaur physiology and reproductive biology. In addition, studying the sedimentary deposits that preserve the eggs permits more accurate interpretations of the nesting behavior of extinct animals. Currently, her research focuses on modern nesting sites (crocodilians, tortoises, and birds) and fossil egg localities in the western United States and southeast China.


Dr. James Schmitt

James Schmitt is Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University with research interests in sedimentary geology that include understanding: 1) relations between tectonics and sedimentation in foreland and extensional basins, 2) tectonic controls on the dispersal of sediment from orogenic belts to alluvial basins, and 3) the sedimentology and facies analysis of modern alluvial fans and ancient alluvial fan deposits. His research in vertebrate paleontology includes investigating the taphonomy of bone beds and dinosaur nesting grounds, deciphering processes of exceptional fossil preservation, and paleoenvironmental reconstruction of fossil-bearing strata.  Schmitt has a Bachelor of Science degree In Geology and Mineralogy from the University of Michigan (1977) and both Master’s (1979) and Doctoral degrees (1982) in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Wyoming.


Christopher Adcock

Christopher Adcock is an Assistant Research Professor in the UNLV Department of Geoscience.  Christopher studies planetary surface processes including the surface geochemistry, geomorphology, and impact processes on other planets and moons in our solar system. He also studies meteorites, astrobiology, and the origins of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere. Christopher's recent work has focused on nutrient availability and the history of water on Mars.


Dr. Levent Atici

Levent Atici is an anthropologically trained archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology at UNLV. His technical expertise is zooarchaeology, the study of hard animal tissues such as bones, teeth, antlers, horn cores, and shells excavated from archaeological sites.  After receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2007, Atici joined UNLV as an assistant professor in the same year. He founded the UNLV Zooarchaeology Laboratory in 2009 and established large collections of modern and archaeological animal bones for research and teaching purposes.  Atici’s research focuses on two greatest progressive revolutions that humankind has ever experienced: the Neolithic Revolution, transitioning from hunting and gathering to farming, and the Urban Revolution, the process by which small-scale, agricultural societies developed into socio-politically and economically complex urban centers.


Dr. Eugene Smith

Dr. Eugene Smith is an emeritus professor in the Department of Geoscience at UNLV. He received his Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico in 1970. His areas of primary expertise are in the areas of volcanology, geochemistry and igneous petrology. Professor Smith’s research ranges from the geology of the Lake Mead area to determining the hazard and risk of volcanism to the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.  He has also established the Cryptotephra Laboratory for Archaeological and Geological Research at UNLV. This lab studies small volcanic glass fragments (shards) in archaeological sites to precisely date the age of human artifacts. This work carried out in South Africa and Italy has important implications for the origin of modern humans.


Virginia Lucas

Virginia Lucas is the Curator of Archaeology at the Lost City Museum in Overton, Nevada. She is also a PhD student in UNLV’s Department of Anthropology, specializing in zooarchaeology, the study of hard animal tissues such as bone, teeth, antler, and shell excavated from archaeological sites. Her skill set has allowed her to work on a number of sites in the United States as well as in the Transylvania region of Romania. Currently, her research focus is on the subsistence practices of the Lowland Virgin Branch Ancestral Puebloans in Nevada’s Moapa Valley.


Dr. Kevin Rafferty

Dr. Kevin Rafferty is an archaeologist with over 40 years experience conducting archaeological research in the Southwest and Great Basin culture areas of the United States. He received his doctorate in anthropology in 1982 based on his work at a major Hohokam site in Arizona, the Gila Butte Site. In Nevada, he has worked for the Bureau of Land Management (1980-1983); as the Director of the Division of Anthropological Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (1983-1989); and as a full-time professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the College of Southern Nevada (1989-2017), the last 12 years of which he served as chairman of the Department of Human Behavior.
During his 39 years in southern Nevada, he has conducted hundreds of small and medium sized contract surveys and excavations throughout Nevada, Utah, and southern California. His major research projects include surveys and multiple site excavations in the Clark Mountains of southern California; surveys and excavations in the Las Vegas Valley; along the Colorado River near the Ft. Mojave Indian Reservation; in Coyote Springs Valley in northern Clark County; and since 2003, numerous large surveys in Valley of Fire State Park near Overton, Nevada. This work has led to the publication of over 65 articles and chapters in Professional journals and books, 35+ short articles in newsletters, 75+ presentations at professional conferences, numerous public lectures, and the writing of hundreds of contract reports. He is also the recipient of the College of Southern Nevada’s Excellence in Research award (2015) and the Nevada Archaeological Association’s Silver Trowel Award for Lifetime Achievement in Nevada Archaeology.  
He considers the crowning achievements of his life to be his marriage to his high school sweetheart, Rhonda, his three children, and his five grandsons.


Sean A. Neiswenter

Sean A. Neiswenter is an Assistant Professor in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His research focuses on the natural history, systematics, and conservation of mammals with an emphasis on arid adapted rodents, although he has also worked with a variety of other species including skunks and bats. His recent projects combine modern molecular techniques with field based studies and museum based morphological analyses. Dr. Neiswenter is currently involved in research projects with local and federal agencies that include the conservation genetics of the California leaf-nosed bat and Colorado River cotton rat, the taxonomic revision and description of new species of pocket mice in the family Heteromyidae, small mammal surveys of conservation areas in southern Nevada, and the population genetics of rodent vectors of Orthopoxvirus in the country of Georgia.

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