Kent Smith, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for the Office for the Advancement of American Indians in Medicine and Science
Professor of Anatomy
My primary research focus is on the taxonomy, phylogeny, and biogeography of late Neogene-age mammals from the Great Basin and Great Plains of North America. To this end, I am tracing mammalian diversity through deep time to evaluate factors (e.g., climate, tectonics, geography) that influence changes in faunal composition. My projects include field studies of fossil mammals from the Great Basin, Intermountain region, Colorado Plateau, and Great Plains. In Oklahoma, I conduct surveys to improve our knowledge of the changing distributions of the recent mammals.
My research efforts in Oklahoma include long-term, field oriented studies to improve our knowledge of the natural history and biogreography of late Cenozoic and recent mammals. In Utah, I am conducting field studies on the Wasatch Plateau to survey and collect Quaternary-age mammals. The primary goal of this project is to study immigration and extinction events on high-altitude refugia.
I co-founded the Native Explorers Foundation with Mr. Reggie Whitten of the Whitten Burrage Law Firm. Native Explorers is a non-profit organization based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which develops and supports educational programs and partnerships that promote increasing the number of Native Americans in science and medicine. Jeff Hargrave, J.D. is the Executive Director of the Native Explorers.
The Native Explorers program at OSU-Center for Health Sciences is designed around the disciplines of anatomy and vertebrate paleontology to provide an array of hands-on, out of the classroom activities that introduce Native people to science and promote traditional ways and culture. General themes include climate change, evolution, comparative osteology, stratigraphy, mapping, healthful lifestyles, and Native culture. This educational program is focused on Natives 18 years of age and older, who are interested in higher education.
Other partnerships include scientists and educators from the Chickasaw Nation, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (SNOMNH), the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the USDA Forest Service (Price District, Price, UT), and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR). Native and non-native scientists and educators from the USDA Forest Service and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources demonstrate field methods used to manage the local resources and they provide insights into internships and careers as well.
The educators at the Chickasaw Nation’s Division of Education have developed a Jr. Native Explorers club for Native youth ages K-12. Mentorship for the Chickasaw youth group is provided for by educators at the Chickasaw Nation, scientists and educators at OSU-CHS and SNOMNH.
In 2015, I partnered with the Osage County Interlocal Cooperative (OCIC) to create Project AAIMS (Advancing American Indians in Medical and STEM careers). During the next four years, this project will provide STEM programs for PK-12 students located within the Osage Nation Reservation (Osage County) and the Otoe-Missouria tribal land (Noble County) in northeastern Oklahoma. My primary responsibility will be to provide STEM activities for the PK-12 students from eight local education agencies (Anderson, Bowring, Hominy, Osage Hills, Pawhuska, Shidler, Woodland, and Wynona) and one local education agency (Frontier) in Osage and Noble counties, respectively. The AAIMS project is funded through the U.S. Department of Education, Native Youth Community Projects (NYCP), which awarded about $5.3 million in grants to help Native American youth become college- and career-ready. Last year, 12 recipients in nine states were awarded funding that will impact more than thirty tribes and involve more than 48 schools.