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The Niku V Field Team


Robin Acker


Dr. Robin Acker will serve as Team Physician on the Niku Expedition. This will be his first trip to Nikumaroro. Robin was raised in Central California, where his 5th grade teacher got him hooked on the Amelia Earhart story. He now lives in the Oklahoma City metro area and specializes in diagnostic radiology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where he teaches residents, radiology technologists and medical students. Robin has numerous interests ouside medicine and has ghostwritten a book on Walt Disney and early studio employees.

Personal Perspective:

When I was growing up, I loved reading adventure stories and mysteries. Amelia Earhart is a real example of both, and I was struck also by the sadness of what had happened to this brave woman. I see the expedition as a unique way to mingle with history, and a way to finally bring Earhart and Noonan home.


Kar Burns


Kar Burns is a forensic anthropologist presently living in Colombia where she works with a organization dedicated to helping families of persons disappeared due to the internal conflict. Kar usually teaches at the University of Georgia, but is now a Fulbright Scholar at the University of the Andes in Bogota. She teaches human osteology as well as recovery and identification of human remains in criminal and human rights investigations. She is author of the Forensic Anthropology Training Manual (1999, 2007), and she is one of the authors of Amelia Earhart’s Shoes, Is the Mystery Solved? (2001). In the Niku project, Kar’s main interest is in the scientific aspects of human decomposition and recovery in the Pacific atoll environment.


Bill Carter


Bill Carter is a land developer and attorney living in Boise, Idaho.  Bill owns a commercial land development company and his own law firm which specializes in intellectual property, general business, real estate and family law.  Bill was a member of the Niku IIII team and the expeditions to locate crashed Lockheed Electras in North Idaho and Alaska.

Personal Perspective:

The search for Earhart is about solving a real life mystery.  Each clue or piece of evidence presents us an opportunity to learn more about everything from forensics to archaeology to meteorology.  We are writing the final chapter to Earhart’s life and perhaps making a little history ourselves in the process.


John Clauss


John Clauss is a veteran of seven expeditions to Nikumaroro and has been a TIGHAR member since 1987. He is self-employed, in the business of specialty fabrication for race cars and race sailboats, is an experienced heavy equipment operator and has been a general engineering/hazmat contractor for over twenty years. He also holds a private pilot/ float plane certificate and has been racing sailboats for forty years.

Twenty two years ago he raised an aluminum unlimited hydroplane from the bottom of Lake Tahoe. Skip-A-Long had been resting at a depth of five hundred feet since 1949 and is now on display at a local museum.

John was born and raised in Sacramento California and has resided on the California side of Lake Tahoe for the past thirty three years.

Personal Perspective:

My involvement with the Earhart investigation dates back to the late 80’s and the first expedition to Nikumaroro in 1989. I tend to not be overly consumed by Amelia Earhart and her legacy. My focus has been on the investigation into her disappearance with particular emphasis on the field work and expeditions. Working with expedition team members and the researchers within EPAC (the Earhart Project Advisory Council) has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. This has led me to concentrate on field operations trying to help conduct them as smoothly, efficiently, and safely as possible.

The intellectual honesty, enthusiasm and integrity of the TIGHAR members has kept me in the game now for twenty years.


Josh Gillespie


Joshua Gillespie is an Environmental Department Manager with DMJM-Harris AECOM, a large engineering consulting firm, based in Manhattan, New York. He has degrees in Environmental Science and Forest Biology, and specializes in wetlands, forestry and natural resource issues. Josh is an adventurer at heart who hikes and winter camps in the high peaks of the Adirondacks, traverses mountains of Yosemite and Yellowstone, but most importantly Josh knows how to juggle. He’ll entertain the weary troops. When not on expeditions, he lives in Jersey City.

Personal Perspective:

My fascination with the project is rooted in the exploration of an extremely isolated, virtually untouched island that is still hiding its history after 70 years. Besides being a chance of a lifetime, I will also have the added bonus of identifying and mapping the trees and vegetation of the island to a detail that has never been done before.


Ric Gillespie


As TIGHAR’s executive director, Ric Gillespie has led over three dozen aviation archaeological expeditions to remote areas of the U.S., Canada, Europe, Micronesia and New Guinea.

Since launching TIGHAR’s investigation of the Earhart disappearance in 1988, he has led eight trips to the Phoenix Islands. Ric’s writings on the Earhart disappearance have appeared in the organizationís journal, TIGHAR Tracks, in the Naval Institute’s Proceedings and Naval History and in LIFE Magazine. His book, Finding Amelia – The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance, was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2006.

Personal Perspective:

I’m hooked on the process of discovery – developing and using the techniques and technologies that enable us to clear away the fog of myth and legend and get closer to the facts. The Earhart Project has been, and continues to be, a fascinating laboratory in which to explore the question of how we can know what is true.


Walt Holm


Walt Holm is a self-employed electrical engineer currently engaged in defense-related research.  Walt was a member of the Dive Team on the 2001 Niku IV  expedition, as well as a team member on the 2003 Niku Vp expedition.  He was the team leader on the 2004 TIGHAR expeditions to Idaho and Alaska to examine crashed Lockheed Electras remaining in wilderness areas.  Walt has also participated in other TIGHAR field work in Idaho, Micronesia, and Newfoundland. He lives in Menlo Park, California.

Walt is a certified Divemaster, and holds a commercial pilot’s license.  When he is not outdoors or working, he spends his time dancing, his current love being Argentine Tango.

Tom King

Tom King


Thomas F. King holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Riverside, and has been a professional archaeologist for some 45 years.  His major field projects have been in California and the Pacific Islands. He is best known, however, for his work in historic preservation – trying to make sure that historic buildings, archaeological sites, indigenous sacred places, culturally distinctive neighborhoods and landscapes – are given as much protection as possible by U.S. government agencies planning projects that may damage them. His work in the late 1970s in what are now the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands led him to be sometimes be called “the father of Micronesian Historic Preservation.” He spent ten years with the U.S. Government overseeing review of federal projects for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (, and is known as one of the nation’s leading authorities on historic preservation laws and practice. He has also worked for the Department of Defense, General Services Administration, and other federal agencies, as well as Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian groups, state and local agencies, private industry, and public interest groups. He teaches classes in aspects of historic preservation in cities all over the country and in the Pacific. He is the author of seven textbooks on archaeological and historic preservation topics (;, along with dozens of journal articles, professional monographs, and popular publications; he is the co-author of Amelia Earhart’s Shoes and has also published a number of professional and popular articles about the Earhart project and other TIGHAR activities. He is currently in private practice, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, and is affiliated with SWCA Environmental Consultants (

Personal Perspective:

Ric Gillespie seduced me into joining TIGHAR and the Earhart Project almost twenty years ago, and (to mix a metaphor) I got hooked. The project is very much like a really, really good mystery story, with innumerable twists and turns, triumphs and disappointments. It’s exciting, too, to work with the people who make up the Earhart Project Advisory Committee (EPAC), representing as they do a wide range of disciplines, a tremendous depth of experience, and the goodwill to work together on a truly cooperative, wholly volunteer, research project. And quite apart from the Earhart connection, I’ve come to love Nikumaroro, to respect deeply its erstwhile colonists, and to be fascinated by its colonial history.


Dave Mason


David Mason is a native Kansan and a principle in Landvest Corporation, a commercial real estate management firm, specializing in the self storage industry throughout the Midwest. With 22 years of self storage experience Landvest Corporation is ranked as one of the top operators of storage facilities in the country managing over 2.5 million square feet.

David is also the President of Capital Ventures involving Real Estate Investment, Restaurant Chain Development and Ethanol Production.

David is a member of Rotary International, American Institute of Wine and Food, Kansas Self Storage Owners’ Association and is involved with Y.E.K. (Youth Entrepreneurs of Kansas) and The Boys & Girls Club. He enjoys gourmet cooking and wine appreciation.  He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

Personal Perspective:

The mystery and adventure of getting closer to concluding the final chapter on Amelia is a dream come true. Being a mystery and adventure enthusiast it is an honor to be associated with such a dedicated and professional team. The integrity of TIGHAR and its Members speak volumes to the results achieved with unbiased logic leading them through the calculated hypothesis.


Andrew McKenna


Andrew McKenna is a principal in Sun Electric Systems, Inc. a leading renewable energy firm the Rocky Mountain Region, specializing in photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems. Andrew is Certified in Photovoltaics in Colorado, and a Certified Energy Manager, with a BA degree in Environmental Science with a concentration in geology from Wesleyan University. Andrew was a member of the 2001 NIKU IIII Dive Team, a participant in TIGHAR’s 2004 Lockheed L-10 search in Idaho, and the 2000 B-23 Dragon survey, Loon Lake, Idaho. He has extensive field experience with the American Museum of Natural History fossil collecting expeditions throughout the Western US, Greenland, and Egypt. Andrew holds an advanced open water scuba diver certification, as well as a Commercial pilots license with Single, Multiengine, and Instrument ratings. He is a member of the Boulder Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol, and is actively involved in Airborne Search and Rescue missions throughout Colorado. He lives in Boulder.

Personal Perspective:

I am delighted to once again be chosen as a team member for the upcoming expedition to Nikumaroro. It’s funny how all the sweat, discomfort, and hard work fade away over time, and are replaced with fond memories of a magical island, teamwork, companionship, and the gratification of a job well done, although not complete.  Returning to Niku will allow us to concentrate our efforts on several areas we concluded at the end of the last expedition were our highest priorities. Each time we go, we uncover yet another interesting set of clues – such as the “dado” materials – (usually right at the end when we’re out of time) that drive the research between expeditions in new directions with new discoveries that make it all the more important for us to return to Niku. The mystery of Earhart’s disappearance is the ultimate missing aircraft search, and I am proud to be part of the dedicated team of researchers who will, through the use of the scientific method, ultimately and definitively solve the mystery.


Barb Norris


Barbara Norris is an elementary school teacher working with gifted and special needs students. For the past ten years she has developed multidisciplinary curricula for her students and has written specific curricula surrounding the Earhart project. She has served as TIGHAR’s Development Director for Education, fielding student requests for information about Earhart. Barb was part of the 1999 Fiji Bone Search Team. She lives in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Personal Perspective:

It’s an honor to work side by side with people who’ve selflessly dedicated their expertise to this project; and it’s a remarkable opportunity to bring historical research experience into the classroom.


Gary Quigg


Archaeologist, historian, museum professional, and television documentary producer, Gary Quigg balances several fields of expertise. His extensive archaeological field experience includes survey and excavation work at both prehistoric and historic sites, often in such extreme locations as the Newfoundland Cape Shore, Alaska’s Misty Fjords Wilderness, and the remote islands of Nikumaroro and Yap in the South Pacific. Through ground-breaking historical research in material culture, Gary has led the development of numerous one-of-a-kind restorations and uniquely accurate reproductions of long-lost artifacts to create interactive and engaging visitor learning experiences at one of America’s leading living history museums. As founder of Dancing River Productions, Gary has written and produced several award-winning historical and environmental documentaries for local and statewide PBS audiences.

A life-long resident of Indiana, Gary is a magna cum laude graduate of Ball State University (Radio, Television, Film) and has completed all coursework for a master of arts degree in Public History from Indiana University (thesis under development). He is currently a general consultant in museum work, curatorship, and historic preservation out of Crawfordsville, Indiana.

An avid outdoorsman, Gary enjoys wilderness backpacking, mountain climbing and canoeing. He has logged hundreds of hours as a private pilot, and is presently restoring a 1943 C-47 that served with the 8th Air Force in Europe during World War Two.

Personal perspective:

Any plausible hypothesis deserves to be thoroughly tested. I am convinced the Nikumaroro Hypothesis is the strongest, scientifically-based attempt to answer the question of what happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, and I am honored to help administer the test.

Tom Roberts

Tom Roberts


Tom Roberts is an aerospace engineer with a PhD in structural mechanics. He retired from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in 2004 and currently is a consultant with the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. Tom has been a member of TIGHAR since 1995. He has participated in TIGHAR’s B-23 Dragon survey at Loon Lake, Idaho and a trip to Newfoundland looking for traces of L'Oiseau Blanc. He lives in Park City, Utah.

Personal Perspective:

TIGHAR, and particularly the Earhart Project, represent the convergence of several of my personal interests: history, aeronautics, geography and problem-solving. The mystery of the Earhart disappearance may well be solvable through the application of the scientific method. TIGHAR’s rigorous approach will determine what happened to Amelia if it is possible to do so, and I am honored to be a part of the TIGHAR team.


Lonnie Schorer


As a veteran of TIGHAR’s Aviation Archeology Course, the Bombay Hook P-47 Thunderbolt Expedition and the 1997 Earhart Niku Team, Lonnie Schorer’s interest in aviation archeology stems from the fact that she is a private pilot (ASEL and ASES) with an interest in women’s contributions to exploration. She was on the Norwegian team supporting Liv Arnesen’s successful attempt to become the first person to ski solo from the edge of the Antarctic shelf to the South Pole. As a member of TIGHAR, the Explorers Club, Scandinavian Historic Flight, and Women in Aerospace, for the purpose of inspiring students to pursue science, mathematics and technology curricula, Lonnie has been invited to speak with school children throughout the US about exploration, including space exploration. She has written Kids to Space: A Space Traveler’s Guide; Kids to Space Mission Plans: An Educator’s Guide; and Beyond Earth: Children’s Visions of our Future in Space. In professional life, Lonnie is an architect who seeks visionary projects. The most recent such projects were as Director of World Heritage Initiatives Taskforce (UNESCO World Heritage sites) and as head of design for a 43,000 ton new concept residential ship, The World of ResidenSea. With her State Department husband and 3 children, Lonnie has lived in Thailand, the former USSR, Turkey, Italy and Norway for nearly 20 years and has served as staff for the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway and for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Spare time activities include kayaking, skiing, jogging and organizing adventure races. She lives in Burke, Virginia.

Personal Perspective

As we all know men and women think and react differently, in searching for the world’s most famous missing woman, Lonnie feels it is important to have women well represented on the team.

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The answers to the Earhart riddle are on Nikumaroro.  If you would like to help sponsor the 70th Anniversary Expedition please contact Ric Gillespie at (610) 467-1937 or by email.

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