Dr. Dawn Mulhern

Dr. Dawn Mulhern
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Arts & Sciences
Professor of Anthropology & Coordinator of the Forensic Studies Minor

Areas of Expertise:

  • Skeletal biology
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Paleopathology
  • Human evolution
  • Repatriation


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, the University of Colorado at Boulder, 1996
  • M.A., Anthropology, the University of Colorado at Boulder, 1994
  • B.S., Cornell University, 1992


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About Dr. Dawn Mulhern

Dr. Mulhern joined Fort Lewis College in 2005. She is an expert in identifying human skeletal remains and works with local, state, federal, and tribal agencies on forensic cases and cases involving prehistoric or historical contexts.

Her research focuses on skeletal biology, forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, paleopathology, and repatriation. Currently, Dr. Mulhern is working on an edited volume about the Basketmaker II people in the Durango area with Mona Charles. Dr. Mulhern has been a forensic anthropologist for the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, a federal mass disaster response team, since 1999. In spring 2015, she was a visiting scientist with the New York Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Dr. Mulhern has published work in bone histology, paleopathology, and methods of assessing age at death in such journals as the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, the Journal of Forensic Sciences, and the International Journal of Osteoarcheology and has presented at numerous national conferences. Her students have also presented their research at national conferences.

Dr. Mulhern and her students are involved in science outreach for K-12 students, including developing and delivering curriculum for summer science camps and classes and labs taught during the academic year. In 2017, Dr. Mulhern delivered an osteology workshop for the Navajo Nation Heritage and Historic Preservation Department. In 2015, she led a skeletal anatomy program attended by Fort Lewis students at a rainforest conservancy in Nicaragua. She has also taught at workshops in forensic histology for the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

Dr. Mulhern is the recipient of the Fort Lewis College Achievement Award (2019) and Featured Scholar Award (2015-16) and served as the College's Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation coordinator from 2005-2017. She served as Chair of the Anthropology Department (2015-2020), Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences (2020-2022), and Interim Dean for the School of Culture and Environment for AY22-23. She served on the editorial board for the Journal of Forensic Sciences from 2012-2022 and currently serves as chair of the Education Subcommittee of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center.

In the Media

"Finding the stories behind the skeletons: From Basketmaker sites to crime sites, Fort Lewis College's Mulhern and students use bones to probe the past," The Durango Herald, November 2015

Selected Presentations, Publications, and Reports

Mulhern, DM, Byrd RM. "Basketmaker II population history, affinity, and health status. In AWL Stodder and DM Mulhern, eds. Readings in Southwestern Bioarchaeology. University of Florida Press, in preparation.

Mulhern DM, Charles MC. "Mortuary patterns in the Durango Basketmakers: A local and temporal study." In Ancient Southwestern Mortuary Practices. JT Watson and GFM Rakita, eds., pp. 21-70, University of Colorado Press, 2020.

Mulhern DM. "Differentiating human from nonhuman skeletal remains," in Handbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology, Second Edition, S Blau and DH Ubelaker, eds. Left Coast Press, 2016.

Mulhern DM. Forensic anthropology report for case CC22-086 for the La Plata County Coroner's Office, 2022.

Mulhern DM. Biological anthropology report for site 5MT2189; in Data Recovery at 5MT2189: Discoveries and Plan of Action Implementation (Monitoring and Limited Excavation) Dolores Ranger District, San Juan National Forest, Montezuma County, Colorado. Report prepared for United States Forest Service, San Juan National Forest by Mona Charles and Dawn Mulhern, 2021.

Mulhern DM, Neff, NC, Brookshier H, Wilson M. "Creating opportunities for K-12 outreach with undergraduate mentors," poster presented at the 88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Cleveland, Ohio, 2019. Abstract published in: American Journal of Physical Anthropology 168(S68):171.

Mulhern DM, Charles MC. "Childhood death in a Southwest Basketmaker II community." Poster presented at the 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2017. Abstract published in: American Journal of Physical Anthropology 162(S64):294.