University of New Mexico Distinguished Professor Felisa Smith has been named the honoree for the 68th Annual Research Lectureship for Career Achievement award.

The ARL is one of the highest honors the University bestows on its faculty members in recognition of research and/or creative activity of exceptional merit.  Each recipient is selected by their peers on the Faculty Senate Research Policy Committee. 


“I’m both humbled and delighted by this honor,” Smith said. “I first came to UNM as a postdoc and like so many was captivated by our diverse and unique culture. UNM is a special place and it’s a joy to be a part of the community.”

Smith is a distinguished professor in the UNM Department of Biology, and her research successes reach far beyond our university community. Smith has a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California Irvine. She is a mammologist, focusing her research interests on paleoecological and evolutionary research—specifically the effects of current global and past climatic change and biodiversity loss on mammals.

In 2021, Smith released a book, Mammalian Paleoecology: Using the Past to Study the Present. The book details the importance of past earth history by examining how animals, plants and ecosystems responded to past perturbation. In total, Smith has published three books or edited volumes, and more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles in a variety of premier scientific publications.

Last year, in recognition of her outstanding research in Mammalogy for more than 10 years, Smith received the 2022 C. Hart Merriam Award from the American Society of Mammalogists. She was also the first Hispanic woman to be elected president of the American Society of Mammalogists in 2021. She was elected a fellow of the Paleontological Society in 2020, and is also the current president of the International Biogeography Society.

Smith, who was also selected as a 2023 UNM Ovation awardee, recently published a paper in PNAS demonstrating how large mammal extinctions affect ecosystem resilience. The University’s Ovation awards recognize full-time faculty for recent cutting-edge research accomplishments that address local or global challenges, while elevating the University’s reputation on a national and international stage.

“To better inform our global future, Dr. Smith’s work and dedication represents a powerful contribution to the field of evolutionary biology by focusing on the lives of ancient mammals,” said Vice President for Research Ellen Fisher. “This field provides a unique insight into both the process of evolution and how it has generated biodiversity across the globe. It also has enormous potential to inform our collective future in critical areas such as sustainable agriculture, resilience to climate change, and genomic models for disease.”  

As part of the ARL honor, Smith will present a lecture next semester. She will be recognized this week during UNM’s 2023 Research and Discovery Week at the PI reception.