Faculty and Students | CFAR | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

Faculty and Students


Gretchen R. Dabbs, PhD

Co-founder and Director of the Complex for Forensic Anthropology Research

Dr. Dabbs earned her PhD at the University of Arkansas (2009) and served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky (2009-2010) before joining the faculty at Southern Illinois University.  Her research interests in forensic anthropology lie in investigating the rate and pattern of decomposition in the unique southern Illinois environment, as well as replicating common clandestine postmortem treatments to understand the effect of these treatments on the decomposition of bodies and how the individual treatment can be identified after the remains are skeletonized.  Dr. Dabbs also participates in the Bioarchaeology of Tell el-Amarna project (http://amarnaproject.com/), which examines the skeletal remains of the non-elite citizens of Amarna, Egypt, the capital city of Akhenaten during his turbulent reign (c. 1350BCE).  In addition to generating her own research at CFAR and facilitating the research of others, Dr. Dabbs’ is the administrative officer of CFAR, overseeing the donation process and all financial matters.


Kaleigh C. Best

Kaleigh earned her BA in Anthropology (forensic concentration) from the University of Montana-Missoula in 2009 and her MS in Biological and Forensic Anthropology from Mercyhurst University in 2015. Her MS research focused on the geometric morphometric comparison of within-individual levels of dimorphism in the os coxae and the cranium. Aside from research, Kaleigh has also interned at DPAA (formerly JPAC-CIL), and has participated in around 20 forensic cases. Kaleigh is a PhD student whose areas of interest include: bioarchaeology, taphonomy, morphometric research into human variation and especially sexual dimorphism, spatial analysis, and anatomy.

Megan Cleary

Megan earned her BA at the University of California, Santa Cruz before attending Southern Illinois University. She earned her MA at SIU in 2012 and is currently at SIU working on her PhD. Her PhD will focus on the bioarchaeology of sociocultural response to environmental change through the examination of stress during the Late and Terminal phases of the Lima culture of prehistoric Peru. Megan's research interests in forensic anthropology include the effects that various elements of the environment have on decomposition, estimating the postmortem interval after illicit treatment of remains, as well as estimating the biological profile based on morphometrics.​

Maria Panakhyo, MA

Maria earned her Master’s from the University of Alabama (2013) where her research focused on the methods for addressing commingled skeletal material and Copena mortuary practices involving the use of caves as ossuaries. In line with her Master’s thesis work, Maria’s forensic research interests include the decomposition and taphonomic and spatial changes that occur in the burial of multiple individuals within confined spaces. Maria’s doctoral research will focus on the differences between medical diagnoses and the pathological features found during postmortem skeletal analysis in contemporary Thai populations.

Lindsey Roberts

Lindsey earned her BS in biology (2005) and anthropology (2010) from the University of Kentucky, and completed her MA at Southern Illinois University (2013).  Her thesis focused on the effects of freezing on soft tissue decomposition in the domestic pig (Sus scrofa).  This thesis won the Outstanding Thesis Award for the university.  Recently, this research has been expanded to include human remains.  She is currently enrolled in the PhD program at Southern Illinois University, where she will continue to investigate additional questions in forensic taphonomy (effects of body size on decomposition, use of fungi and plant staining as a potential indicator of the postmortem interval), as well as pursue research in bioarchaeology and human variation.  Her dissertation research will focus on cemetery patterning utilizing biodistance analyses at the New Kingdom Egyptian site of Amarna.  She is also working on coursework in pursuit of the Certificate in Anatomy.

Jessica R. Spencer

Jessi earned her BS in anthropology from Oregon State University (2009) with an emphasis in historical archaeology and physical anthropology. She received her MA in forensic anthropology from the University of Montana (2013). Her MA research documented decomposition in western Montana's highly variable and unpredictable climate, specifically looking at cold weather induced stasis in the decomposition process. Jessi is currently a doctoral student at Southern Illinois University where she is analyzing a bioarchaeological collection from a late Roman/early Byzantine site from northern Jordan. Jessi's areas of interest include human osteology, dentition, skeletal trauma, pathology, and decomposition/taphonomy. Jessi participated in a field school analyzing skeletal remains from Amarna, Egypt, interned at DPAA (JPAC-CIL), participates in forensic cases, contributes to data collection at CFAR, and manages the CFAR Database.