Isaiah Smith



Address: University of Southern California, Department of Earth Sciences

825 Bloom Walk, ACB 302

Los Angeles, California 90089-0740



     I am interested in understanding how living things interact in extreme environments and evolve over long periods of time. Currently, my work focuses on bioinformatic analyses of genetic information obtained from Icelandic sub-glacial microbial communities.


David Bottjer Lab, USC Department of Earth Sciences (2018 – Present)

  • Analyzed invertebrate biodiversity trends in the fossil record and assisted graduate students with data collection and sample processing at various remote field sites.


Jan Amend Lab, USC Departments of Earth/Biological Sciences (2018 – Present)

  • Characterized novel microbes from a glacial subsurface lake, processed and analyzed genetic sequencing data, and assisted with a variety of geochemical and microbiological assays and projects.


David Caron Lab, USC Department of Biological Sciences (2017 - 2018)

  • Examined how dissolved nutrient concentrations affect organismal growth rate and ecosystem composition and tested the effect of variations in salinity on the toxicity of algal blooms.


Independent Study in Environmental Philosophy (ENST 490) (Spring 2018)

  • Investigated socioeconomic and environmental questions relating to urban green space development in Los Angeles, California through in-depth analyses of various peer-reviewed publications, culminating in a research paper entitled Los Angeles Green Space: An Issue of Environmental Justice


Hydrology and Geochemistry Maymester – Peru (May 2019)                                                                 

  • Participated in a three-week field course in the Andes Mountains and Amazon Rainforest of Peru, learning central aspects of hydrology, geochemistry, and ecology.

Paleontology Field Research Assistant – Nevada, USA (October 2018)

  • Assisted with field work investigating cephalopod evolution in relation to the End-Triassic Extinction Event in the New York Canyon region of west-central Nevada.

Paleontology Field Assistant – British Columbia, Canada (August 2018)

  • Assisted paleontologists studying mass extinctions and biodiversity fluctuations in the Cache Creek and Porcupine Creek regions of the Canadian Rockies.


Field Geology Maymester – Southern Spain (May 2018)

  • Learned structural geology and basic field geology techniques during two weeks spent in the Betic Mountains of southern Spain.


Southern California Lake Sampling – Los Angeles County, California (Summer 2017)

  • Collected water from local lakes and streams in southern California for geochemical and ecological analysis in the David Caron Lab.



University of Southern California, B.S. in Earth Sciences, B.A. in Human Evolutionary Biology 2020




Dean’s List  (Fall 2016 – Present)

  • Awarded each semester to students earning a GPA of 3.5 or higher

USC Phi Beta Kappa Undergraduate Award (To be conferred April 3, 2020)

  • Awarded to two undergraduates each spring for demonstrating excellence in liberal arts studies as expressed through creativity, scholarship, and leadership in the community.


Lenore B. Kreiger Scholarship for Science (June 2019)

  • Awarded to outstanding undergraduates studying the natural sciences.


Theory and Method in Human Evolutionary Biology - Most Outstanding Student (April 2019)

  • Awarded to the most outstanding student enrolled in the course “Theory and Method in Human Evolutionary Biology” (HBIO-406) during the Spring 2019 semester. 


Department of Biological Sciences Okin Award (April 2019)

  • Established in memory of Dr. Milton Okin, this award is awarded to the most outstanding sophomore, junior or continuing senior, as determined by the faculty and lab directors in the Department of Biological Sciences.


Jean and Irving Stone Award (March 2019)

  • Awarded to undergraduates who have demonstrated excellence in academic pursuits. 


USC Academic Achievement Award (December 2018)

  • Provides funding for high-achieving undergraduates to enroll in extra units during a given academic semester.  


Robert O. Stone Scholarship (July 2018)

  • Awarded to outstanding undergraduates pursing studies in the earth sciences.


Del Amo Award (January 2018)

  • Provides funding for students pursuing scholarly activities in Spain.


USC Academic Achievement Award (December 2017)

  • Provides funding for high-achieving undergraduates to enroll in extra units during a given academic semester. 


USC Spanish and Portuguese JEP Mentoring Award (December 2016)

  • Awarded to one student each semester for showing outstanding scholarship and dedication to community service in the local Spanish-speaking community.


Valparaiso Schools Foundation Incoming Freshman Scholarship (May 2016)

  • Awarded each spring to high-achieving students entering their freshman year of college the following fall.


Isaiah E. Smith, Amanda Godbold, David Bottjer (oral presentation; 2019). Quantifying the Influence of Inter-Observer Variation and Medium Type (Thin Section Versus Polished Slab) on Alpha Diversity Estimates. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ.


Isaiah E. Smith, Amanda Godbold, David Bottjer (poster; 2019). Polished slabs or thin-sections? Examining the consistency of alpha diversity estimates across different mediums. North American Paleontological Convention, University of California at Riverside, Riverside, CA.


Jayme Feyhl-Buska, Isaiah E. Smith, Emilie J. Skoog, Annette R. Rowe, Eric Gaidos, Jan P. Amend (poster; 2019). Targeted enrichment describes potential metabolic reactions and reveals novel taxa and thermophiles in Icelandic subglacial lakes. Astrobiology Science Conference, Seattle, WA.


Isaiah E. Smith, Alle A.Y. Lie, Avery O. Tatters, David A. Caron (poster; 2019). Effect of salinity on the toxicity of the harmful alga Prymnesium parvum. USC Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. 


Jayme Feyhl-Buska, Isaiah E. Smith, Emilie J. Skoog, Annette R. Rowe, Eric Gaidos, Jan P. Amend (poster; 2019). Novel taxa and microbial metabolisms in subglacial lakes revealed through targeted enrichment. Southern California Geobiology Symposium, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.


Isaiah E. Smith, Jayme Feyhl-Buska, Emilie J. Skoog, Annette R. Rowe, Eric Gaidos, Jan P. Amend (poster; 2019). Thermophiles enriched from subglacial lakes. Southern California Geobiology Symposium, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.


Jayme Feyhl Buska, Isaiah E. Smith, Emilie J. Skoog, Annette R. Rowe, Jan P. Amend (poster; 2018). Rare taxa and microbial metabolisms revealed through targeted enrichment from subglacial lakes. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Washington, D.C.


Emilie J. Skoog, Jayme Feyhl-Buska, Isaiah E. Smith, Annette R. Rowe, Jan P. Amend (poster; 2018). Assessing the physiology of sulfur oxidizing bacteria in an Icelandic volcanic subglacial lake. Southern California Geobiology Symposium, University of California at Riverside, Riverside, CA.


Academic Tutor, USC Athletic Department (September 2018 – December 2018)

  • Tutored student-athletes in environmental science and geology courses.

SC Outfitters Wilderness Guide (April 2018 – present)

  • Organized and led wilderness trips designed to introduce members of the USC community to safe and sustainable backcountry practices.


USC Joint Education Project (Fall 2016)

  • Volunteered at John W. Mack Elementary School in Los Angeles, California each week during the fall of 2016.



Panelist, Undergraduate Research and Fellowship Panel (November 4, 2019)

Student Volunteer, GSA Annual Meeting (September 2019)

Sigma Gamma Epsilon Geology Honor Society (August 2017 – Present)

USC Rock Climbing Team (Gear Manager) (August 2016 – Present)

USC Environmental Core (August 2016 – Present)



  • Petrology

  • Mineralogy

  • Introduction to Geosystems

  • Field Geology

  • Paleontology


Data Analysis

  • Biological Statistics

  • Analysis of Biological Data in R



  • Evolution and Population Genetics

  • Molecular Biology

  • Cell and Organismal Biology

  • The Human Animal (Biological Anthropology)