Research Station People


Melissa Connor, Director of the FIRSMelissa Connor, Ph.D., is the Director of the Forensic Investigation Research Station at Colorado Mesa University and Professor of Forensic Anthropology. She was appointed Director in 2012, coming from Nebraska Wesleyan University where she was director of the Master of Forensic Science program. She has 30 years of archaeological experience, and has worked in forensic science for the last 20 years. Dr. Connor specializes in forensic archaeology and is the author of Forensic Methods: Excavation for the Archaeologist and Investigator, published by AltaMira Press. Connor specialized in mass grave sites, working in post-conflict areas throughout the former Yugoslavia, and in Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, and Nigeria. She gained her initial experience in battlefields, working on archaeological sites such as the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana. She is co-author of Archaeological Perspectives on the Little Bighorn and They Died with Custer: Soldiers' Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, both published by the University of Oklahoma Press.


 Picture of Smith

Alex Smith, B.A. FIRS Lab Manager graduated from Portland State University with a B.A. in Anthropology in 2017. He interned at the FIRS in the Fall of 2017 and stayed on to become a volunteer crew chief, assisting current students and instructing them in lab operations. Mr. Smith has also worked with Elson Shields of Cornell University (see "Researchers" below) in studying the blowfly speices at the FIRS. In this capacity, he authored FIRS Technical Manual 5, Protocols for Entomological Specimen Collection. Mr. Smith became FIRS' full-time Lab Manager April, 2019.





Christiane Baigent, MSc. Researcher, TB-40
Christiane Baigent, MSc. is currently working on her Ph.D. at Southern Illinois University. Her dissertation subject is high altitude decomposition and she is working on the TB-40 site. Her current research includes the effect of altitude on decomposition and concomitant patterns of longitudinal osseous taphonomic change, the effect of postmortem interval on the presentation of perimortem blunt force trauma, region-specific models and standards for the estimation of postmortem interval, and the development of diagnostic criteria for taphonomic change. She received her MSc. in Forensic Bioarcheology from University College London.

Eriek Hansen, Ph.D.

Eriek S. Hansen, Ph.D. Research Faculty
Eriek S. Hansen, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. He earned both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees at Utah State University, and his Ph.D. at the University of Wyoming. His academic interests include science education, aquatic ecology with an emphasis on fisheries, and forensic sciences. His current research focuses on improving methods for quantifying the postmortem interval.



 Douglas D. Scott, Ph.D.

Douglas D. Scott, PhD. Visiting Research Faculty
Douglas Scott holds degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder (Ph.D., M.A., and B.A.).  His areas of specialization are historical archaeology of the American West, military archaeology, conflict and battlefield archaeology, human rights and forensic archaeology.  He conducted most of his fieldwork in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain West, and has also worked on human rights and forensic cases in Rwanda, Croatia, Bosnia, and Cyprus. Dr. Scott brings an expertise in metal detecting, historic material culture in burials, and excavation to FIRS.


Elson Shields, Ph.D.

Elson Shields, PhD. Visiting Research Faculty
Dr. Elson Shields, a professor at Cornell University – Entomology since 1986, brings a diverse skill set and an intense interest in Forensic Entomology to FIRS projects.  His appointment at Cornell is in Field Crop Entomology with a 50:50 Research: Extension (agribusiness outreach) split.  His interest in Forensic Entomology spans 30+ years, but only recently has time allowed an active pursuit of the field.  Dr. Shields brings computer modeling skills, experience in insect growth/development models, insect movement/migration, remote sensing, insect identification, aerobiology and insect overwintering expertise to the project.  Being raised in the arid southwest (AZ), the interactions of the dry climate, insects and decomposition are of special interest.