Lori Baker, PhD

Associate Professor of Anthropology & Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives, Collaboration and Leadership Development
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Research in Progress

My research focus is human biological variation. I have looked at variation throughout the Americas in both modern, historic, and ancient populations to understand populations in both a fixed point in time and also how populations change through time.

In 2003, I founded Reuniting Families, a program to assist local, state and federal US agencies as well as foreign governments in the recovery, identification and repatriation of deceased migrants found along the US/Mexico border. In addition to Texas cases, we have also performed analyses on remains from California and Arizona. the Baylor Forensic Team also performs field work and has exhumed the graves of the unidentified in order to perform proper forensic examinations, take DNA samples, enter the cases into NamUs (www.identifyus.org) as well as to work with numerous agencies governmental, public and private to compare information in hope of identification. Hundreds of Baylor students have donated countless hours to these efforts over the last 15 years. We have worked on roughly 560 cases that have resulted in the repatriation of individuals from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, the Dominican Republic and more.

In 2016, Baylor launched the San Giuliano Archaeological Research Project in Italy. This is an effort to understand the temporal occupation of the of the site. My focus is in the necropolis regarding the skeletal analyses the excavated tombs. In particular, I hope to answer basic questions such as the number of individuals interred in each tomb, their age ranges and sex distribution as well as the time span for the use of the tomb. I also hope to answer questions of the genetic relatedness of those within each tomb and between tombs and complexes and to assess the genetic similarities to other past and present populations.

Degrees

PhD in Anthropology, University of Tennessee

MA in Anthropology, Baylor University

BA in Anthropology, Baylor University

Teaching

I firmly believe that anthropology necessitates hands-on and field experiences in order to truly develop and prepare students properly. I benefitted immeasurably from field school experiences and genuine laboratory research when I was an undergraduate student and try to offer these opportunities to my students. In addition, I think a team based approach is the only way to adequately address the wicked problems of today so many of my courses involve active involvement and team collaboration. Lastly, my work is not merely focused on creating knowledge but applying that knowledge in areas of criminal and social justice and human rights; therefore, I find it imperative to consider how we might be social innovators as much as scientists.

Recent Media Appearances

"Missing in Brooks County." Directors Jeff Bemiss and Lisa Molmot, 2018

"Here After." Directors Sarah Friedland and Esy Casey, 2017

"Vice Does America." On VICELAND Season 1, Episode 4, 2016

"Desperate Journey." American Odysseys by Susan Farkas, United Nations Film for IRINnews.org, 2014

"LamentoCon Alas: Documenting Immigrant Deaths Along the Texas-Mexico Border. "Director Pilar Timpane, Producer Carlos Colon, 2014

"Scientist IDs Bodies of Migrants, Helping Families." StoryCorps – NPR, produced by Jasmyn Belcher-Morris, submitted to the Library of Congress, 2014

"Texas scholar's work to ID immigrant corpses is gratifying --and sad." LA Times front page by Molly Hennessy-Fiske, November 1, 2013

"Big-hearted forensic sleuth and unsung Baylor Nation hero Lori Baker.” Dallas Morning News, Texas of the Year finalist: Lori Baker, by Sharon Grigsby, December 19, 2014

"The Forensics of Identifying Migrants Who Die Exhausted after Crossing from Mexico." Scientific American, by Ananda Rose, June 2015

"Immigration: Grim Caseload at the Border." The Wall Street Journal, by Ana Campos, October 6, 2014

"Forensics professor helps ID migrants." USA Today, by Shari Rudavksy, June 22, 2013

Recent Publications

Baker, L.E. Chapter 27: Biomolecular Applications. IN: The World Archaeological Congress Handbook: Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology. 2015. Second Edition, Dr. Soren Blau and Dr. Douglas Ubelaker (eds.). Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Baker, L.E. Identification of Deceased Unauthorized Border Crossers in the U.S. In: Biological Affinity in Forensic Identification of Human Skeletal Remains: Beyond Black and White. 2014. Gregory Berg and Sabrina Ta’ala eds. CRC Press.

Adams, R.P., L.E. Baker, R. N. Pandey. Seventeen Years of Juniper and Spinach Leaves in Alcohols: Effects on DNA. Phytologia. 2011. 93(3):283-292.

Baker, L.E. and E.J. Baker. Reuniting Families: using phenotypic and genotypic forensic evidence to identify unknown immigrant remains. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 2008. 53(1):50-53.

Arismendi, J., L.E. Baker, and K.J. Matteson. Effects of processing techniques on forensic DNA analysis of human skeletal remains. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 2004. 49(5):930-934.