Adjunct professor receives science award

2/4/2009 - By: Jon Fortenbury

Robert G. Elston, a University anthropology adjunct professor, was elected a 2008 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The announcement appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of Science (an AAAS journal).

“I was surprised and gratified,” Elston said. “It’s a great honor. I never expected to get anything like this.”

Awarded for his contributions in the study of prehistoric human ecology in arid lands, Elston’s research focuses on prehistoric hunter-gatherers in northwestern China, the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin of North America. His work provides the environmental context in which these ancient people lived and their economic and behavioral ecology.

Elston has published numerous papers, monographs and reports. His research has been widely supported, including by the National Science Foundation, the Chinese National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation and the National Geographic Society.

“The work I’ve done and directed others to do is important and interesting,” Elston said.

From 1972 to 1979, Elston directed the Nevada Archeological Survey in the Anthropology Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. Elston’s involvement with the University continues to this day. Since 1986, Elston has been an adjunct professor and he occasionally sits in on the University’s graduate student committee.

Elston was a Principal and Research Director from 1980 to 1997 at Intermountain Research, a private archaeological consulting firm in Silver City, Nev. In 1998 to 2001, he was a visiting lecturer in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Davis. He was a Fulbright Research Scholar in 2004-2005 at the Center for Arid Environment & Paleoclimate Research at Lanzhou University in China, where he also taught for two years.

Elston has done a lot of collaborative work during his career. He recognizes that the efforts of his colleagues contributed to his election.

“It’s a reflection on them as much as it is on me,” Elston said.

Now a retired independent scholar, Elston keeps busy by reworking older studies and focusing on writing and research. He recently submitted a paper to a journal about dating ostriches in Asia and is working on a paper about Jilanti Salt Lake in Mongolia.


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