General Information  I  Student Profiles


The Center for the Study of the First Americans is part of the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University. The department has 24 faculty members and offers BA, MA, and PhD degrees.

The Center is fully integrated into the academic curriculum of the Department of Anthropology. The center faculty regularly teach classes and participate in the education and training of graduate and undergraduate students. They have developed a set of specialized undergraduate and graduate courses for students specializing in First American studies. These include First American Archaeology, Paleolithic Northeast Asia and Alaska, Method and Theory of Peopling of the Americas, Geoarchaeology, and Lithic Technological

Both undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to become involved with Center research projects in both the field and laboratory. These provide numerous training experiences in diverse settings from the Texas woodlands to Alaskan arctic tundra.

Center graduate students also take courses from other Anthropology faculty. Some examples include human behavioral ecology (M. Alvard and J. Winking), hunter-gatherer archaeology (A. Thoms), palynology (V. Bryant), zooarchaeology (D. de Ruiter), paleoanthropology (S. Athreya), and ancient genetics (A. Linderholm). The study of the First Americans is a very interdisciplinary field. Students are encouraged to take courses in other departments and colleges across the university. Coureducation-2-smses in geochemistry, geomorphology, sedimentology, pedology, ecology, and many other fields are available at Texas A&M University.

For more information about degree programs, see the Department of Anthropology website.


Current Students and their Research Projects



Adam Burke (Ph.D.)

Adam completed his BA in History at Wilkes University in 2010 and his MA in Applied Archaeology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2014. He is a Ph. D. student in the Center for the Study of the First Americans whose research focuses on geochemical sourcing of Florida toolstone and its implications for explaining Paleoindian mobility and subsistence strategies. Additionally, his research interests include Paleoindian lithic technology, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and site formation processes in karst environments. His recent research has included using Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (PXRF) to determine chert provenance and define the effects of chemical weathering on lithic, ivory, and bone recovered from submerged contexts in Northwest Florida. Adam’s past experience includes submerged prehistoric excavations in Florida, terrestrial and underwater surveys in the Great Basin, and Cultural Resource Management survey throughout the Northeastern United States. (Chair: Mike Waters) (c.v.)


Marion Coe (Ph.D.)

Marion is interested in perishable technology and its relationship to human subsistence and landscape use in the Great Basin and Snake River Plain. She has conducted analyses using light and scanning-electron microscopy on perishable assemblages from the Four Siblings Rockshelter site in eastern Nevada and Aviators Cave lava-tube site at the Idaho National Laboratory, southeastern Idaho. Marion has worked at sites in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and she has been involved in CSFA projects in Alaska and Idaho. My dissertation research will focus on comparing regional plant-material usage in Paleoindian through Archaic periods. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
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Caitlin Doherty (Ph.D.)

Caitlin Doherty earned her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of San Diego in 2015.  Before arriving at Texas A&M, she participated in the Bethsaida Excavation Project in Israel for two years and worked for two years in cultural resource management in Southern California. She has also participated in laboratory research with lithic material from the C.W. Harris Site housed in the San Diego State University Archaeology Collections. In summer 2017, she joined Dr. Kelly Graf and the CSFA in excavating the McDonald Creek site, central Alaska. Her research interests include human behavioral ecology, particularly related to large-scale environmental change during the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene, and the lithic technologies, landscape use, and mobility of the First Americans. (Chair: Ted Goebel)


Angela Gore (Ph.D.)

Angela is interested in explaining Upper Paleolithic and Paleoindian technological organization, hunter-gatherer ecology, human behavioral adaptation, and modern human dispersals in Beringia and the Americas. Recently, she has worked on several CSFA field projects, including excavations at the Debra L. Friedkin site in central Texas and Owl Ridge and Dry Creek sites in central Alaska. Angela is currently analyzing the lithic assemblage from Owl Ridge to understand changes in technological organization and ultimately behavioral adaptations in prehistoric central Alaska. (Chair: Kelly Graf)
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Joshua Lynch (Ph.D.)

Josh is interested in how the first Americans interacted with their environments. Recently, he has been involved in CSFA excavations at Serpentine Hot Springs, a buried fluted point site on the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Seward Peninsula. Josh plans to develop a project that addresses how early Beringians organized technologies in response to climate flux during the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition. (Chair: Ted Goebel)

Katelyn Meducation-katleyncDonough (Ph.D.)

Katelyn McDonough received her B.S. in Anthropology from the University of Oregon (UO) in 2014. Her research objective is to employ a holistic pathoecological approach in coprolite analysis, incorporating palynological, macrobotanical, and archaeoparasitological analyses to investigate the diet, health, and human ecology of late Pleistocene/ early Holocene peoples in Oregon’s Northern Great Basin. Katelyn’s previous experience includes fieldwork with the Eugene District Bureau of Land Management, and with the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History Research Division. As an undergraduate she investigated the distribution of artifacts, bones, and coprolites at the Paisley 5-Mile Point Caves site, where she attended field school in 2011. She has also supervised at several archaeology field schools operated through UO. Next summer she will be returning to Oregon’s Fort Rock Basin for a third field season at the Connley Caves site, which she hopes to incorporate into her future research. (Chair: Vaughn Bryant) ( c.v.)

 education-prattJordan Pratt (Ph.D.)

Jordan Pratt received her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Oregon in 2015. She is interested in the peopling of the Americas and Paleoindian archaeology in the northern Great Basin region of Oregon. Specifically, Jordan is interested in human behavioral ecology and exploring human adaptations to climate change. Her research interests include lithic technologies, and utilizing GIS to explore changes in mobility and settlement patterns through time. Jordan has archaeological and geoarchaeological research experience throughout the northern Great Basin, where she has worked as a field technician for the Burns Bureau of Land Management, and as a site supervisor for the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History’s Archaeological Field School at a number of sites, including Rimrock Draw Rockshelter and Skull Creek Dunes. She also has field experience in the Pacific, where she worked on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). (Chair: Ted Goebel) (c.v.)


Neil Puckett (Ph.D.)

Neil’s current research focus is the relationship between Paleoindians and water resources in the northwestern Great Basin. He is looking to identify how people adapted to changes in these systems as Pleistocene lakes dried up and access to water became more difficult. To accomplish this, he is investigating fluvial systems and basins that have been consistently inundated in the Great Basin and its western margin after 13,000 years ago. He will also be directing research such as coring within the lacustrine environments to determine the potential for submerged archaeology and buried “open air” sites at the margins between lacustrine and fluvial systems. The pilot study will be used to plan a survey, excavation, and testing program around and within the fluvial and lacustrine systems to present a complete picture of Paleoindian land use around the selected water systems. Ultimately this research will allow for a better understanding of how life ways changed in the Great Basin from the Late Pleistocene through the Early Holocene. (Chair: Kelly Graf)

Morgan Smith (Ph.D.)

Morgan’s dissertation research concerns Paleoindian groups in the Southeast United States in order to understand the role of the region during the peopling of the Americas. His field-work is focused at two sites: a Middle Paleoindian campsite in north Florida called Ryan-Harley and a potential Early Paleoindian mammoth kill site in central Florida known as the Guest Mammoth. He will use the information learned at Ryan-Harley to better understand regionalization trends following the initial peopling of the Americas. The trend manifested at this site is the Suwannee point style, which appears to be constrained to the lower Southeast and to have developed immediately after the Clovis period. The age of Suwannee is unknown and Ryan-Harley is one of only two sites where Suwannee material has been recovered in situ. Excavations conducted at the site in 2015 and 2016 will answer questions regarding the Suwannee tool-kit, subsistence strategies, and place of the trend within the North American Paleoindian chronology. In addition to the excavations at Ryan-Harley, Morgan is analyzing Suwannee points found across the Southeast United States to understand the adaptations and distributions of Suwannee point makers on a regional scale. The second site he is focusing on is the Guest Mammoth, which was excavated in 1972 and fell out of discussion due to errant radiocarbon ages and questions of geologic context. Given advances in geoarchaeology and radiocarbon dating over the last 40 years, he has renewed investigations on the Guest Mammoth to determine its place in the Paleoindian record of North America. When complete, the findings from these investigations will shed light on Paleoindian adaptations to the Southeastern Coastal Plain in the Early and Middle Paleoindian periods. (Chair: Mike Waters)

John White (Ph.D.)

John White is a native of Boulder, Colorado where he received his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Colorado. Following graduation, he was employed in cultural resource management, conducting archaeological survey and excavations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. He also recently participated in the CSFA excavations at McDonald Creek in central Alaska. John is primarily interested in the initial colonization of the Americas by anatomically modern humans, specifically the hypothesized coastal migration from Northeast Asia along the southern coast of Beringia and the ice-free refugia which would have been necessary for such a migration to succeed. Other, and related, research interests include lithic technology, landscape learning, and landscape exploitation by Paleoindian peoples. John’s research will focus on emergent coastlines in southern Alaska and the Pleistocene landforms and sites associated with these coasts. (Chair: Ted Goebel)

Ryan Young (Ph.D.)

Ryan completed his B.A. in Anthropology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2013. His M.A. thesis at Mississippi State University examined the stratigraphic integrity of the Clovis component on the Pleistocene Terrace at the Topper Site (38AL23). His research focuses on hunter-gatherer behavioral adaptations during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition in central Tennessee. For his dissertation research, Ryan plans to reexamine the stratigraphic integrity of previously documented Paleoindian sites along the Tennessee River such as Carson Conn Short and Heaven’s Half-Acre. Additionally, his research interests include geoarchaeology, stone tool organizational technology, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Ryan’s past archaeological experience includes working at sites, such as the Topper site, Bells Bend, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Moundville, Poverty Point, Russell Cave, and conducting surveys of the Norris Reservoir in Tennessee. (Chair: Mike Waters)

CSFA Student Graduates and their Research Projects


Josh Keene (Ph.D. 2016) c.v.

Dissertation title: Geoarchaeology, Paleoecology, and Holocene Subsistence Change on the Upper Snake River Plain, Idaho.  (Chair: Michael Waters)

John Blong (Ph.D. 2015) c.v.

Dissertation title: Prehistoric Landscape Use in the Central Alaska Range (Chair: Ted Goebel)

Angela Younie (Ph.D. 2015) c.v.

Dissertation title: Microblades, Bifaces, and the Chindadn Complex: Reinvestigating the Healy Lake Archaeological Record, Alaska.  (Chair: Ted Goebel)

Heather Smith (Ph.D. 2015) c.v.

Dissertation title: Paleoindian Technology in Beringia: A Technological and Morphological Analysis of the Northern Fluted-Point Complex. (Chair: Ted Goebel)

Jesse Tune (Ph.D. 2015) c.v.

Dissertation title: Settling into the Younger Dryas: Human Behavioral Adaptations During the Pleistocene to Holocene Transition in the Midsouth United States. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Melissa Mueller (M.A. 2015) c.v.

Thesis title: Taphonomy and Zooarchaeology of Faunal Assemblages from Archaeological Sites along the Upper Susitna River, Alaska. (Chair: Ted Goebel)

Kayla Schmalle (M.A. 2013)

Thesis title: Geoarchaeological Investigation of the Coats-Hines Site (40WM31), Williamson County, Tennessee. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Jessi Halligan (Ph.D. 2012)

Dissertation title: Geoarchaeological Investigations into Paleoindian Adaptations on the Aucilla River, Northwest Florida. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Tom Jennings (Ph.D. 2012)

Dissertation title: Late Pleistocene Technological Organization at the Buttermilk Creek Site. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Ashley Smallwood (Ph.D. 2011)

Dissertation title: Clovis Technology and Settlement in the American Southeast. (Chair: Ted Goebel)

John Blong (M.A. 2010)

Thesis title: Paleoindian Toolstone Provisioning and Settlement Organization at the Higgins Site. (Chair: Ted Goebel)

Heather Smith (M.A. 2010)

Thesis title: A Behavioral Analysis of Clovis Point Morphology Using Geometric Morphometrics. (Chair: Ted Goebel)

Josh Keene (M.A. 2009)

Thesis title: Site Formation Processes at the Buttermilk Creek Site (41BL1239), Bell County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Charlotte Pevny (Ph.D. 2009)

Dissertation title: Clovis Lithic Debitage from Excavation Area 8 at the Gault Site (41BL323), Texas: Form and Function. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Juan Urista (M.A. 2009)

Thesis title: Stratigraphy and Geochronology of the Vernor Mammoth Site, Clute, Brazoria County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Victor Galan (Ph.D. 2008)

Dissertation title: Excavation, Analysis, and Behavior of the Hegar and Texas Caches in Southeast Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Dawn Alexander (M.A. 2008)

Thesis title: Geoarchaeological Investigation of Natural Formation Processes to Evaluate Context of the Clovis Component at the Gault Site (41BL323), Bell Country, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Scott Minchak (M.A. 2007)

Thesis title: A Microwear Study of Clovis Blades from the Gault Site, Bell County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Heidi Luchsinger (Ph.D. 2006)

Dissertation title:The Late Quaternary Landscape History of the Middle Rio Negro Valley, Northern Patagonia, Argentina: Its Impact on Preservation of the Archaeologiucal Record and Influence on Late Holocene Human Settlement Patterns. (Chair: Michael Waters)

Michael Aiuvalasit (M.A. 2006)

Thesis title:Geoarchaeological Investigation at the McNeill-Gonzales Site (41VT141), Victoria County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)

William Dickens (Ph.D. 2005)

Dissertation title:Biface Reduction and Blade Manufacture at the Gault Site 41BL323: A Clovis Occupation in Bell County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)

James Wiederhold (M.A. 2004)

Thesis title: Toward the Standardization of Use-Wear Studies: Constructing an Analogue to Prehistoric Hide Work. (Chair: Harry Shafer)


If you would like to learn more about the Graduate Program in the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University, please contact us by phone at (979) 845-5242, or by email at