Dr. Lori Baker is a professor of anthropology at Baylor University, specializing in skeletal biology and genetics. I am the Founder and Executive Director of the Reuniting Families Project.
Dr. Baker works internationally on the recovery and identification of remains of victims of human rights violations and assisted in the establishment of Mexico’s Missing Nationals Abroad database. She has been an invited speaker in many national and international venues such as at the Peace Palace in The Hague as part of the International Commission on Missing Persons Conference and Amnesty International. She has performed forensic analysis of over 500 cases from of missing persons for the U.S., Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Peru and Honduras resulting in the repatriation of loved ones in each of these countries. She has acted as a consultant to the Attorney General of Mexican State of Chihuahua as well as to the Washington Office on Latin America, the U.S. Agency for International Development in addition to the Truth Commissions in Peru and Panama.
I am a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and have published in national and international journals. My work has been featured in Discovery Magazine, National Geographic, NPR, The Washington Post, USA Today, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets.
Industry Expertise (3)
Writing and Editing
Areas of Expertise (6)
Indentification of Remains
Forensic Analysis of Skeletal Remains
Reuniting Families Project
Remains Found Along Mexican Border
Missing Persons Identification
University of Tennessee: Ph.D., Anthropology 2001
Baylor University: M.A., Anthropology 1994
Baylor University: B.A., Anthropology 1993
Media Appearances (22)
Death toll rises to 53 in suspected migrant-smuggling operation in San Antonio: What to know
USA TODAY online
Forensic anthropologist Lori E. Baker, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Baylor who created the nation’s first database for unidentified international migrants in 2003.
53 migrants are dead in San Antonio. Identifying their remains won't be easy.
USA TODAY online
Forensic anthropologist Lori E. Baker, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Baylor who created the nation’s first database for unidentified international migrants in 2003, was interviewed for this article about the long, complicated process ahead of providing final IDs on the remains of the 53 migrants who died in an abandoned semi-truck in San Antonio. Dr. Baker is quoted in an additional USA TODAY article.
'Disaster of epic proportions': Migrant deaths on the rise; Border Patrol increases rescues
USA TODAY online
Lori E. Baker, Ph.D., vice provost for faculty development and diversity and professor of anthropology, who has led efforts to identify migrant remains, is quoted in this article about the staggering number of migrant deaths and record number of rescues of asylum seekers along the southwest U.S. border.
Compassion International and Baylor form partnership against poverty
Baptist News Global online
Compassion International, a child-sponsorship agency, in partnership with Baylor University has announced a project to address global childhood poverty and provide ministry tools for pastors in Guatemala enrolled in Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary’s online ministerial certification program. In this article, Lori Baker, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity and professor of anthropology, analyzes Baylor’s strategy to address poverty and areas of focus for the university.
Pilot project first step in Baylor partnership with Compassion
Baptist Standard online
Compassion International has partnered with Baylor University to launch and online education pilot program to impact children in poverty around the world. Lori Baker, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity and professor of anthropology, shares insights into Baylor’s research surrounding the project and potential projects the university is looking into.
Baylor Connections: Lori Baker, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity
KWBU-FM (Waco/NPR) radio
Baylor Connections will feature a conversation with Lori Baker, Ph.D., professor of anthropology, vice provost for faculty development and diversity, who engages in challenging and important work along the U.S.-Mexico border to repatriate families with lost loved ones. Baylor Connections is a weekly radio program/podcast that introduces the people behind Baylor’s teaching, research and distinct role in higher education.
Corpses Keep Moving Long After Death
Popular Mechanics online
Lori Baker, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and vice provost for faculty development and diversity, is quoted in this article about a project that looked at post-mortem movement in a decomposing body.
For the Living and the Dead
Baylor Research online
Lori Baker, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and vice provost for faculty development and diversity, has changed the ways we approach the tragic experience of immigrants lost along the U.S/Mexico border. Her organization, Reuniting Families, brings dignity and closure through forensic work that identifies and repatriates.
Fact check: Have 1,671 dead migrants been discovered near the border since 2011?
In this article on the number of recorded deaths of those who died while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Lori Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and vice provost for strategic initiatives, collaboration and leadership development, said there is “drastic underestimation” of deaths. Baker founded the Reuniting Families Project in 2003 to identify deceased undocumented migrants.
How to Dig Up a Grave
The New York Times Magazine online
Lori Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and vice provost for strategic initiatives, collaboration and leadership development, is the featured expert in this brief story about “how to dig up a grave.” Baker, a forensic anthropologist, has dug up hundreds of graves in public and private cemeteries since founding Reuniting Families, an organization that tries to locate and repatriate the remains of migrants who died crossing the border.
Hundreds die crossing US-Mexican border, and lawmakers want to help ID them
USA Today print
Lori E. Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and vice provost for strategic initiatives, collaboration and leadership development, is quoted in this article on the death of immigrants crossing the border and the need for identifying their remains. In 2003, Baker began collecting DNA samples from remains and exhumed bodies in South Texas to attempt identifications. Her group, the Reuniting Families Project, has worked on 560 cases, identifying about 40 percent of them.
Dr. Lori Baker, Frank Gaffney, Jason Benham, David Benham
Live with Tony Perkins radio
AUDIO: Lori E. Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and vice provost for strategic initiatives, collaboration and leadership development, was interviewed on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” about her work with Reuniting Families, a program she founded at Baylor in 2003 that aids in the identification and repatriation of undocumented immigrants who died during migration into the United States, and how DNA analysis could play a role in the current immigration crisis. Dr. Baker’s interview runs from 4:00-13:48.
Critics attack study that rewrote human arrival in Americas
In an article published today in the premier journal Nature, members of Baylor University’s Institute of Archaeology collaborated to refute the findings of a previous Nature article, which claimed humans had arrived in the Americas more than 110,000 years earlier than is currently believed. The researchers analyzed fossils from the Waco Mammoth National Monument, which “calls into question the basis for their paper,” said Joseph V. Ferraro, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and director of the Institute of Archaeology. Co-authors include Katie M. Binetti, Ph.D., senior lecturer of anthropology; geosciences graduate students Logan A. Wiest and Donald Esker; Lori E. Baker, Ph.D., vice provost for strategic initiatives, collaboration and leadership development and associate professor of anthropology; and Steven L. Forman, Ph.D., professor of geosciences.
The Disappearance of Maura Murray
Lori Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, appears in this Oxygen TV Network’s true crime documentary, “The Disappearance of Maura Murray.” Baker, who specializes in forensic analysis of human remains, provided DNA testing for the program.
DNA samples from immigrant families sought to help ID missing, dead relatives
New York Newsday print
Lori E. Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology and vice provost for strategic initiatives, collaboration and leadership development at Baylor University, is quoted in this Newsday article about a special team of immigration advocates, working in collaboration with forensic experts, who will obtain DNA samples from New York City-area immigrant families whose relatives are missing and may have died crossing the deserts of the American Southwest. In 2003, Baker founded the Reuniting Families Project to help identify remains of immigrants.
A Path to America, Marked by More and More Bodies
The New York Times print
This article cites the work of Lori Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology and vice provost for strategic initiatives, collaboration and leadership development, and her team of forensic anthropology students who exhumed bodies in Brooks County, Texas, in 2013. Baker is founder of the Reuniting Families Program, which works to identify those who died while crossing the border in hopes of repatriating them to their families.
Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year finalist: Lori Baker
The Dallas Morning News online
Lori Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, has been named one of nine finalists for Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year, for her efforts identifying immigrants who died while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Baker, who founded the Reuniting Families Project in 2003, has worked to identify the unknown and provide their families with closure and an opportunity to give their loved ones a proper burial. In this editorial, Baker is quoted about her efforts: “We’re better than leaving the dead forgotten, no matter how they came here. I want people to know Texas, and the Texas spirit, is better than that.” The Dallas Morning News Texas of the Year recognizes “a Texan (or Texans) who has had uncommon impact — either positive or negative — over the year.”
Big-hearted forensic sleuth and unsung Baylor Nation hero Lori Baker
“We’re better than leaving the dead forgotten, no matter how they came here,” says Lori Baker, 44, an East Texas native and DNA sleuth. “I want people to know Texas, and the Texas spirit, is better than that.” That quote drills to the heart of why Lori Baker is on our Texan of the Year finalist list...
Workers try to put names on migrants who die near border
Austin American-Statesman/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services print
The McClatchy-Tribune wire picks up Claire Osborn’s Austin American-Statesman feature story on the Reuniting Families Project of Lori Baker, Ph. D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, and her team of forensic anthropologists and students, who exhumed remains during the summer at a Texas border cemetery to identify them and return them to their families. Interviewed are Baker and Eva Abernathy, a senior anthropology major from Round Rock, Texas.
Scientist IDs Bodies Of Migrants, Helping Families Find Closure
NPR’s Morning Edition radio
For StoryCorps, one of the largest oral history projects of its kind that airs weekly on NPR’s Morning Edition, Lori Baker, Ph. D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, sat was interviewed by her husband, Erich Baker, Ph.D., associate professor in bioinformatics in the School of Engineering Computer Science, about her efforts to identify remains of immigrants and match them with families who are looking for lost relatives. Morning Edition is one the most listened-to news radio program in the country, with 12.3 million listeners a week. The StoryCorps segment, which was recorded on the Baylor campus, will be preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. (Tonya Lewis, assistant director of Baylor Media Communications, coordinated the interview with the Bakers and StoryCorps producers. She covers research and faculty in the anthropology department and has placed numerous national media stories since 2012 about Lori Baker’s DNA project.)
Answers to key questions about immigrant burials
Associated Press online
Lori Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences, is featured in this Associated Press article by Christopher Sherman about discovering mass graves while exhuming bodies of undocumented immigrants at a cemetery in Brooks County, Texas near the Texas/Mexico border. This story appeared in more than 200 media outlets such as NBC News, the San Francisco Chronicle, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Austin American-Statesman and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. As part of her Reuniting Families Program, Baker and her team of forensic anthropologists and Baylor students traveled to Falfurrias, Texas this month to exhume bodies in hopes of identifying and returning the deceased to their families.
Baylor University professor speaks at Amnesty International conference on human rights
Baylor University Communications
Lori Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Baylor University, spoke Saturday, April 5 at Amnesty International’s 2014 Human Rights Watch conference in Chicago...
A Mass Grave of Mexican Soldiers from the Resaca de la Palma Battleield (41CF3): Demography and Battle-Related InjuriesBulletin of the Texas Archeological Society
2012 The Battle of Resaca de la Palma, the second battle of the Mexican-American War, was fought on May 9, 1846 near the Rio Grande River in southern Texas. The battle was won decisively by United States troops and resulted in the death of hundreds of Mexican soldiers who were subsequently buried in mass graves. One of the mass graves (41CF3) contained the skeletal remains of 27 to 36 adult male soldiers, including those from the Seventh and Tenth Infantry companies. The skeletal remains were examined for battle-related injuries. The anatomical location of each wound was documented and each lesion was inspected to determine the timing, type of wound, and the direction of the force. More than half of the individuals exhibited osteological evidence of battle-related trauma. The wound distribution pattern and type of wounds present demonstrates that traditional battle tactics, as well as hand-to-hand combat, occurred at Resaca de la Palma.