Michael Smith

Mastodon teeth

Sample of Mastodon teeth housed at the Indiana State Museum and used for a three dimensional geometric morpho-metric study.

Current Research

Regional and temporal evolutionary changes in the American Mastodon using dental characteristics derived from classic morphometrics as well as shape analysis via geometric morphometric techniques.

Research Statement

I have a vested interest in quantifying the considerable amount of variation observed in the dentition of the American Mastodon and determining of the variation has trends which are related to sexual dimorphism, regional differences, or temporal changes. In a more general sense, I am interested in vertebrate morphological variation as it relates to speciation and other evolutionary processes.

forensic taphonomy

I have a side interest in vertebrate taphonomy from a immediate post-mortem perspective as well as in human and primate evolution. I also carry what I would refer to as a more "hobbyist" interest in planetary geology and astrobiology.

From a taphonomic review study using modern forensic taphonomy to determine the potential transport of human remains in a fluvial environment. Images represent the amount of skeleton remaining after a set number of days in floating transport.



Selected Accomplishments

Field Research

Four years of annual field research in the Big Horn Basin of northwestern Wyoming. Field research consisted of mammalian fossil collection via screening, surface collection, and extraction. The latter two years served as a co-director under a BLM paleontological collection permit.

Lab and Data Analysis

Specific measuring, identifying, and statistical analysis of vertebrate fossils. Statistical analyses including cluster analysis, discriminant analysis, and principle components conducted on mammal teeth ranging in size from a few millimeters to over 20 centimeters.

3D renderings of Mastodon teeth

Some three dimensional renderings using landmark points of the same Mastodon teeth compiled and superimposed on top of one another.


Six presentations both nationally and locally. Five poster sessions and one talk in venues ranging from small local meetings such as Indiana Academy of Science to large national gatherings such as Geological Society of America.


Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis: Bachelor of Arts Geology. Awarded Spring 2007. Advisor: Dr. Gary Rosenberg

Indiana University: M.S. Candidate. Advisor: Dr. David Polly



Smith, M. R., 2006, Taxonomic and Statistical Analysis of the Early Eocene Mammalian Fauna of the Big Horn Basin, Wyoming Poster Presentation at DOGS-RD, Bloomington, IN

Smith, M. R., 2004, Taxonomic Analysis of the Early Eocene Mammalian Fauna of the Big Horn Basin, Poster Presentation at GSA, Denver, CO, 2004. Vol. 36, No. 5, p. 366

Smith, M. R., 2003, Grain Size Comparison of a Ribbon Sandstone from the Big Horn Basin, Poster Presentation at Indiana Academy of Science, Anderson, IN Volume 119, p. 32

Patrick, R.R., Hurst, S., Smith, M., Howell, D., Habela, E. and B. Ringrose. 2003 Indiana State Museum Wyoming Site 1: Geologic Overview. Indiana Academy of Science, Annual Meeting Volume 119, p. 79.

Howell, D., Habela, E., Patrick, R., and S. Hurst. 2003 Eocene Primate Diversity Within the Willwood Formation of Northwest Wyoming. Indiana Academy of Science, Annual Meeting Volume 119, p. 32.

Hurst, S., Patrick, R., Smith, M., Howell, Habela, E. and B. Ringrose. 2003 Early Eocene Copelemur Jaw Fragment From Washakie county, Wyoming. Indiana Academy of Science, Annual Meeting Volume 119, p. 32

Grants and Awards:

Depart of Geological Sciences Research Day, Indiana University, Best Undergraduate Poster Presentation: $250, Awarded: Spring 2006

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, IUPUI, Wyoming Summer Field Research Undergraduate Research Grant: $2500, Awarded: Fall 2005 - Spring 2006

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, IUPUI, Conference Travel Grant: $500, Awarded: Fall, 2004, Attendance of GSA conference to present mammalian paleontology research.

Service Work:

Public Relations for IUPUI Geology Club: Spring 2004 to Fall 2005

Research Work:

Morphometric analysis of Mastodon dentition, Indiana State Museum

Field Work Locations:

Big Horn Basin, Wyoming: Summer 2002, Summer 2003, Summer 2004
Chief Scientist: Randy R. Patrick
Role: Field assistant 2002-2003, Co-Director 2004-2005