Alex Nyers headshot photo

Alex Nyers

Science/Data Team
Owner and Program Director
Northwest Archaeometrics, Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Laboratory

Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?

I specialize in using technology to help answer archaeological questions in a field known as Archaeometry. Some of my specialties include examining the elemental makeup of stone tools to determine where they came from, creating and analyzing digital three-dimensional models of archaeological artifacts (both large and small), and modeling where people might have lived in the past.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

Before I became an archaeologist I worked for several years in information technology fixing computers at Oregon State University. While this was enjoyable to me at the time I realized that it was silly to work at a university and not have a college degree. I started taking classes and ended up gravitating towards archaeology because it combined both labs as well as outdoor work and I thought I could leverage my IT background to help me excel in the field. As I progressed through my studies I became more and more interested in trying to figure out how people before us lived, what challenges they faced, and how they overcame those challenges. I found it particularly exciting to use new technologies to help us look at archaeological problems through potential new lenses.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My wife Kirsten has always been there to help whether it be to listen, debate, send encouragements, challenge my thinking, or put up with me going away for long periods of time during the many field work excursions I have gone on. Without her help, there is no way I would be where I am today.

What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?

Traveling to new places and meeting interesting new people is one of the best parts of my job. Working with Dr. Loren Davis has allowed me to go to some truly amazing places. I have worked on an uninhabited desert island for weeks at a time, driven up and down the Baja Peninsula, and spent months working on the Oregon coast as well as the beautiful Salmon River canyon of West-Central Idaho. Another perk of my job is that I get to see a lot of amazing archaeological artifacts as they come through my lab.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

Previous to being the owner and program director of Northwest Archaeometrics and Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Laboratory I worked as a teaching assistant for several years at Oregon State University. During my graduate studies, I also worked as a research assistant at the TRIGA research reactor on the OSU campus. Before enrolling at OSU I worked for several years doing desktop computer support.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Applied Anthropology - Oregon State University; Masters of Applied Anthropology, Oregon State University

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy hiking, hunting, and fishing, exploring the outdoors, and reading fantasy/sci-fi books. I also like tinkering with new technologies as they come out and playing Minecraft with my kids.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?

For someone going into archaeology, I would stress that one of the best things you can do is to adopt a multidisciplinary approach - borrow from different fields as much as possible! There is a lot of neat stuff out there that folks are doing that can be adapted to archaeology, you are limited only by your own creativity.

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?

I helped create a model that attempts to predict where in the landscape people might have wanted to live when sea levels were lower. We are now beginning to test that model using various technologies. Given my experience with both the model as well my archaeological and technological background, I was asked to come along and help during the data collection that we will be doing aboard the Nautilus.


Alex participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: