Dr. Heather Edgar awarded Women in STEM Grant from UNM ADVANCE

Departmental News

Posted:  Jul 23, 2020 - 12:00pm

Dr. Heather Edgar has been selected to receive the  Women in STEM  faculty development award from  UNM ADVANCE  for her project  "Improving identification for missing and murdered American Indians." This project focuses on the problem of missing and murdered American Indians, which has recently garnered national attention. One reason for the large number of missing American Indians may be the misclassification of their remains as some group other than American Indian. Misclassification greatly reduces the likelihood that a missing person can be matched with human remains that have been recovered. Here, I propose basic science research using up-to-date methods coupled with a new research resource to improve the accuracy of group membership estimation for American Indians. We will collect 3D measurements of skulls in 255 CT scans of American Indian decedents processed through the Office of the Medical Investigator. These data will be used to: 1) describe cranial variation within and between language groups; 2) describe variation in comparison to Hispanic/Latino Americans and Latin Americans; 3) estimate the frequency of misclassification of Native Americans in forensic contexts; 4) create new statistical tests to improve estimation. Results will include a publication and application to the National Institute of Justice. This work will provide direction for the next several years of my career, helping me move from critiquing the application of categories of race and ethnicity in forensic anthropology to offering solutions to meet this need.