Nautical archaeology of the post-Medieval Era; construction and outfitting of ships; seafaring, shipboard life, and maritime communities; North American river, lake, and canal navigation; 19th century steamboats and ship propulsion technology; warships and naval technology, 1450-1950; War of 1812 naval design and construction.
My interests and research focus on ships, seafaring, and maritime activity in the post-Medieval era (from the 15th to the 20th centuries A.D). Ships of the War of 1812 have been a central interest since 1981 when I recorded the wreck of the U.S. Navy schooner Ticonderoga; this was followed by M.A. and Ph.D. projects on the U.S.N. 20-gun brigs Eagle and Jefferson. At Texas A&M I supervised graduate student projects on six additional 1812-era vessels and edited the book Coffins of the Brave (published in 2014) which summarizes archaeological studies of sixteen different naval wrecks. While at Texas A&M I have directed field schools on an 1820s horse-propelled paddle ferry boat (published in the 1998 book When Horses Walked on Water); between 1995 and 2001 I led surveys and wreck studies in Portugal’s Azores Islands, and from 2002 and 2008 I directed the excavation of the 1830s-era Heroine, the earliest Mississippi River steamboat to be studied by archaeologists. Most recently, from 2014 to 2016, I co-directed (with my colleague Dr. Carolyn Kennedy) the excavation and documentation of four early Lake Champlain steamboat wrecks. Currently, I am writing and editing a contributed chapter book (with TAMU Anthropology alum Dr. George Schwartz) on the archaeology of early North American steamboats.
I am the Anthropology Department’s M.S. Program faculty advisor. In addition, since 2008 I have served as the Institute of Nautical Archaeology’s Vice President for New World Research, and I am a member of the Texas A&M University Press Faculty Advisory Committee, serving (since 2018) as chair of the committee. In 2016 I was a Faculty Fellow at the Glasscock Center for the Humanities at Texas A&M University.