My name is Adam Netzer Zimmer and I am a biocultural anthropologist, educator, and science advocate finishing my Ph.D. through the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Adam Netzer Zimmer heiti ég og er að klára doktorsnemi í „biocultural” mannfræði við University of Massachusetts Amherst í Bandaríkjunum. Ég á heima í Reykjavík og vinn við kennaradeild Háskóla Íslands.

I am a Ph.D. candidate working in the UMass Community Archaeology Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste. My research is at the intersections of identity, policy, violence, and health in bioarchaeology, forensic anthropology, and medicine. My dissertation research looks at human cadaver recruitment in medical institutions, examining the differences in body acquisition between Iceland and the United States. In short, I look at human remains kept by institutions after research and teaching and ask what social factors led these individuals to the dissection table.

This work, which is based primarily in Reyjavík, Iceland, has been funded by the Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Grant, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Wenner-Gren Foundation's SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Fellowship,, the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation fellowship, and the UMass Amherst Armelagos-Swedlund Biocultural Anthropology Dissertation Award.

A key component of my research is the integration of queer theory with scientific practice. My latest publication on this topic, "Issues of Gender, Identity, and Agency in Paleopathology", co-authored with Dr. Pamela Stone, is now available in the Routledge Handbook of Paleopathology.


I earned a dual Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Music (Voice) from Ithaca College in upstate New York in 2013. That was where I first gained interest in human remains as a research assistant at the Taphonomic and Decomposition Post-Mortem Outdoor Laboratory Experiments (TADPOLE) facility.

I then went on to earn my Master's degree in Anthropology from UMass Amherst in 2016 as a part of the UMass Violence & Conflict Laboratory.

My master's research, funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, used GIS mapping to trace how cadaver acquisition practices for anatomical teaching disproportionately affected racially segregated neighborhoods in New York City (ca. 1880-1920). This research is now available as a part of the Springer Press book Bioarchaeological Analyses and Bodies: New Ways of Knowing Anatomical and Archaeological Skeletal Collections.

While my research speciality is now centered in Iceland and the American Mid-Atlantic region, I have also conducted bioarchaeological and forensic fieldwork in Romania, Italy, upstate New York, Massachusetts, and the American Southwest.

More information about my current research projects can be found here.

To contact me, please email me at azimmer@anthro.umass.edu

Media & Outreach

I am dedicated to open and accessible science communication for the public. Below are some of the interviews, public science articles, and similar projects I have been involved with.

Podcast Interviews

Public Science News

Other interviews

About my research >
Teaching & advocacy work >>
Updates >>>
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© 2023 Adam Netzer Zimmer.



My dissertation research, centered in Reykjavík, Iceland, investigates how hospitals, universities, and other medical institutions acquired human cadavers for anatomical training in the early years of modern medical practice. This project is squarely situated between biological and cultural anthropology, combining both to gain a picture of whose body was used for anatomical dissections, why they were chosen, and what policies promoted the acquisition process. This project is funded, in part, by the Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Grant, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, and the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation.

I do forensic anthropology consultations and have taught forensic anthropology short courses in a variety of venues, including training courses for the Amherst, Massachusetts Town Police and UMass Amherst Police Departments. Additionally, I have trained dozens of university students in the proper excavation and analysis of forensically-significant human skeletal remains.

If you are interested in consultaton services or would like to set up a short course for your organization, please contact me at azimmer@anthro.umass.edu.

Additional Projects

Taphonomy & Trauma of Human Remains
This project uses 3D digital microscopy and macroscopic analysis to analyze sharp-force trauma patterns on anatomical skeletal collections. The goal is to establish standards for determining the timing and methods of maceration techniques applied to human remains. It aims to address the problems with determining trauma pre- and post-soft tissue decay.

Repatriation & NAGPRA Consultation
I have acted as a consulting osteologist for the UMass Amherst NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) Repatriation Committee. In conjunction with this role, I am very interested in community-based approaches to human remains investigation and repatriation. In particular, I am interested in collaborating and consulting with descendant populations not directly addressed by current NAGPRA legislation.

Research Updates

You can find my most current research updates on the following sites:

Current Curriculum Vitae
To download a copy of my current CV, please click here.

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© 2023 Adam Netzer Zimmer.



Courses I have taught as the lead instructor include:

  • ANTH 312: Medical Anthropology
  • ANTH 208: Human Ecology
  • ANTH 103: Human Origins and Variation

In addition, I have acted as a teaching assistant and guest lecturer in a variety of courses, including Forensic Anthropology, Anthropology of Violence, Inequality and Power in the United States, Anatomy of the Human Body, and Race and the American Museum. In addition, I have acted as a supervisor for undergraduate research projects on decomposition in the Taphonomic Research Facility and as a graduate peer mentor in the Department of Anthropology.

My teaching interests and abilities include the following:

  • Anthropology of Violence
  • Race & Racism in Science
  • History of Science & Medicine
  • Bioarchaeological Methods
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Queer & Feminist Science

Throughout my graduate career, I have instructed field school students in a variety of settings. For five year, I was the lead instructor of the UMass Amherst Bioarchaeology & Forensic Anthropology Field School. This 6-week field course, held every summer, utilized a combination of classroom teaching, in-field excavation, and laboratory experiences to introduce students to the role of the biological anthropologist, archaeologist, and forensic scientist in the excavation of human remains.

Following this, I conducted research in Romania as the co-PI of the Rivulus Dominarum Transylvanian Bioarchaeology Project.In addition to conducting rigorous bioarchaeological research, this field school seek to maximize students' individual learning potential by creating laboratory and field exercises for a variety of learning styles. The syllabus also emphasizes readings and guest lectures on higher-level topics such as critical feminist biology, community-based approaches to archaeology, and heritage management. I believe it is crucial that students going into the field acquire not only the hands-on skills of excavation but also the knowledge base to put these skills to work.


Advocacy work is central to my research and teaching philosophies. I believe that an effective science is one that is effectively communicated outside of academia and one that centers the voices of people who have often been excluded from science.

As a part of this work, I am a proud member of ISNBS (International Society of Nonbinary Scientists), the 500 Queer Scientists initiative, and oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

I am also an active panelist for the Boston-based SpeakOUT. This organization is the nation's oldest LGBTQIA speakers bureau, working to create a world free of homo-bi-transphobia and other forms of prejudice.

<About my research
<<About me
Updates >
Contact me >>

© 2023 Adam Netzer Zimmer.



August 10, 2023

My collaborative project on the skulls from Haffjarðarey was picked up by National Geographic! The piece tells the story of the research being done by Dr. Sarah Hoffman, Dr. Joe Walser, and myself.

"Why Iceland wants its medieval skulls back" is available now.

March 28, 2023

The podcast episode we've been working on for months is finally out! "A Story of Icelandic Skulls", part of Season 5 of the SAPIENS podcast, tells the story of a haunted island, skull collecting, and 20th century race science. But, most importantly, it's a conversation about the changing discourse surrounding how we treat human remains after death.

"A Story of Icelandic Skulls" is out now on whatever podcast platform you use.

March 6, 2023

I'm very excited to be giving a webinar for the Paleopathology Association on March 24 at noon Eastern US Time.

The talk is titled "Paleopathology Through a Queered Lens" and is open to all PPA members. I hope to see you there!


December 31, 2022

My latest publication with co-author Dr. Pamela K. Stone is now available in the Routledge Handbook of Paleopathology. Our chapter integrates queer theory, CRT, violence theory, and other theoretical paradigms in an attempt to shift paleopathological studies away from static and binary research questions.

The chapter, "Issues of Gender, Identity, and Agency in Paleopathology" is available now.

October 17, 2022

As of October 2022, I've officially joined the Executive Board of Bangsafélagið, a Reykjavík-based LGBTQ+ non-profit, as the organization's Secretary.

I'm greatly looking forward to contributing to the organization's mission of working towards body-positivity in the larger queer community of Iceland.

September 3, 2022

I'm beyond thrilled to say that I've been selected as one of the inaugural fellows of the Wenner-Gren Foundation's SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Fellowship. With the support of a three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Fellowship program guides anthropologists on accessible writing and podcasting for broad nonacademic audiences. The purpose of this fellowship program is to provide in-depth training for anthropologists in the craft of science communication and public scholarship—to transform their research into stories that engage the public and spur readers and listeners to rethink themselves and their world.

August 15, 2022

Rivulus Dominarum founder Priscilla Mollard and I will be presenting some of our findings from the 2022 field season in Baia Mare at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists.

Our paper is titled "Forged in Baia Mare: Social relationships and the embodiment of medieval gold mining in a 14th-17th century Transylvanian cemetery."

August 8, 2022

We've had a thrilling - and challenging - field season this summer in Baia Mare, Romania with Rivulus Dominarum Bioarchaeology!

This field season also included our first international conference about findings surrounding the Piaţa Cetăţii cemetery collection. We're so glad that community members, local experts, and national news media were able to attend.

Thank you to Adevarul for your coverage with the story, "Cimitir medieval din Baia Mare, studiat de cercetători americani. Ce au găsit aceştia sub parcul ‘Ţintirim’" (Trans. “Medieval cemetery in Baia Mare studied by American researchers. What did they find under the park ‘Tintirim’”)

Please be aware that the linked story contains images of human remains.

March 31, 2022

Preliminary findings of my dissertation research will be presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Biological Anthropologists.

My talk is titled "Taphonomic and sharp-force trauma analysis of a non-identified anatomical teaching skeletal assemblage from Reykjavík, Iceland".

March 8, 2022

A huge congrats to Tiarra Cooper of the UMass Department of German and Scandinavian Studies for winning the 2022 UMass Amherst 3MT competition!

It was great to be able to return for this year's competition as a judge. You can check out Tiarra's talk on the UMass Amherst Graduate School's YouTube page.

September 20, 2021

This past Sunday I was invited to give one of the keynote talks for the British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO).

My talk was titled "Queering Studies of Anatomical Skeletal Collections" and discussed what queer science means and how it can lead to better science, more thorough investigations, and better inclusion practices in the lab, field, and publications.

Thank you so much for inviting me!

September 7, 2021

Thank you so much to the National Museum of Iceland/Þjóðminjasafn for inviting me to give a talk about my work on the Læknagarður Anatomical Collection.

You can watch the entire talk, titled "Prime Harvest: Iceland's Place in the Early Global Cadaver Trade", on the museum's YouTube channel or stream it here.

March 25, 2021

Thanks so much to WRSI's Monte Belmonte for interviewing me and Emma Dauster about our winning 3MT talks.

93.9 The River · The 3 Minute Thesis Winners 2021

March 19, 2021

It was such a blast competing in the UMass Amherst Three Minute Thesis competition! And I can't believe it, but I won! It was such a privilege getting to hear all of the amazing research going on at the UMass Amherst Graduate School.

You can read my interview with the UMass College of Social and Behavioral Sciences here.

March 5, 2021

I'm thrilled to say that I'm one of the finalists for the annual Three Minute Thesis competition, held by the UMass Amherst Graduate School!. I'll be competing in the campus final on March 18 with a talk titled: "Prime Harvest: Cadavers & Our Source of Anatomical Knowledge"

November 11, 2020

Last night I had the privilege of talking with the Capstone Seniors in Ithaca College's Anthropology Program alongside my IC alum and colleague Dr. Brittany Kenyon-Flatt. It was a fantastic reminder of the great potential anthropology undergraduates have across so many different fields! Thanks to Anthropology Department Chair Dr. Jennifer Muller for inviting us back!

October 23, 2020

I just gave another talk to the Forensic and Bioanthropology Laboratory (FAB Lab) Group at BU's Program in Forensic Anthropology. Thanks again to Dr. Sean Tallman for inviting me to talk about my work. I gave a talk titled "Queer Collections: What Queer Theory Can Teach Us About Skeletal Collections".

September 21, 2020

Thanks so much to DiscoverPhDs for inviting me for a brief interview about my experiences as a doctoral student in STEM

August 19, 2020

You can listen to my interview with Dr. Michael Rivera on The Arch & Anth Podcast to learn all about my Icelandic research. It's Episode 42: What is the American and Icelandic medical history of cadaver recruitment for anatomical research and training?

July 15, 2020

Thank you so much to U.S. Fulbright, Fulbright Iceland, and the National Science Foundation for an amazing year in Iceland!

February 5, 2020

I will be presenting my research at the Council for European Studies' annual meeting in June 2020. My paper is "The 'Marginalized' Dead: Iceland as a case study for early 20th century anatomical training".

November 1, 2019

Thanks so much to Fulbright Iceland and the National Science Foundation Arctic Research Initiative for sponsoring our session at the 2019 Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík, Iceland. Our panel on Fulbright in the Arctic sparked fantastic conversation.

September 19, 2019

I'll be presenting my research at several conferences this academic year. First, you can find me at the Arctic Circle Assembly as a part of the "Fulbright in the Arctic" session in mid-October.

I'll also be at this year's American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Vancouver Canada. I'll be presenting as a part of the session "Changing climates in the study of sex and gender: new insights on old theories".

June 5, 2019

My most recent article for Scientific American magazine has just been published.

The article, "Era of the Body Snatchers" describes my Master's research which looked at how the intersecting factors of race and poverty intersected to influence who was selected for dissection tables in early 1900s New York City

February 28, 2019

I've been awarded the U.S. Fulbright Program's Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Grant!

I'll be returning to Iceland for the 2019-2020 academic year to continue my research on anatomical skeletal collections.

January 28, 2019

Enroll in my online summer course, Human Origins and Variation, through UMass Continuing and Professional Education!

This course, which runs from July 8 to August 16, will introduce students to the wide range of research within biological anthropology and will help students learn how human biology and behavior have interacted over the course of our evolution.

December 28, 2018

Exciting news!

I've just received notice that I have been recommended as a semi-finalist for the 2019-2020 Fulbright U.S. Student Program to Iceland!

November 2, 2018

Thank you so much to the Forensic and Bioanthropology Laboratory (FAB Lab) Group at Boston University's Program in Forensic Anthropology for inviting me to speak about my research. I gave a talk titled "Violence or Trauma? What skeletal collections can teach us about violence".

September 24, 2018

I'm very excited to say that I will be co-organizing a roundtable session at this year's American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in San Jose, California.

Along with Syracuse University Ph.D. student Aja Lans, we will be organizing a roundtable discussion titled "Black Feminist Science", aimed at discussing what contributions and futurities Black Feminist perspectives can offer to the scientific side of anthropology.

August 25, 2018

In the spring of 2018, I was awarded a University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Anthropology Pre-dissertation Fellowship. Thanks to this funding, I've spent the summer conducting research on post-mortem processing on several anatomical teaching skeletons housed at UMass Amherst.

My hope is that this research will help bioarchaeologists distinguish post-mortem processing marks associated with dissection and autopsy from those occuring naturally from excavations and general wear and tear.

June 26, 2018

I'm so proud to be one of the queer scientist contributors to Rewire.org's story about LGBTQ representation in STEM: 500 Queer Scientists Speak Up About STEM Inclusivity.

I can't think of a better way to close out Pride Month 2018 than by helping increase visibility of queer scientists. For more information about the 500 Queer Scientists project, or to submit your own story, be sure to check out their website!

March 12, 2018

I have a new book review out about the fantastic volume The Archaeology of Race in the Northeast, edited by by Christopher N. Matthews and Allison Manfra McGovern.

The review can be found in the Anthropology Book Forum of Anthropology News and is titled Re-evaluating the Place of Race in Historical Archaeology.

January 2, 2018

My first book chapter is finally published! It's titled "More than the sum total of their parts. Restoring identity by recombining a skeletal collection with its texts." It's part of a fantastic edited volume, Bioarchaeological Analyses and Bodies: New Ways of Knowing Anatomical and Archaeological Skeletal Collections, edited by Dr. Pamela K. Stone, as a part of Springer Press' Bioarchaeology & Social Theory series.

< Teaching & advocacy work
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<<< About me
Contact me >

© 2023 Adam Netzer Zimmer.



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