Waitt Institute for Discovery
Dominique Rissolo, Ph.D.
Dr. Dominique Rissolo is an archaeologist with field experience in the United States and Latin America. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in anthropology, with an emphasis in archaeology, from the University of California, Riverside, and received his B.A. in anthropology, with a minor in geological sciences, from San Diego State University.
Prior to coming to the Waitt Institute, Dominique’s primary interest has been in the rise of social complexity in the northern Maya lowlands and the development of ancient maritime trade networks along the Yucatan coast. His research on the Yucatan Peninsula has also focused on ancient Maya cave use as well as coastal and near-coastal settlement patterns and ecosystems. Throughout his fieldwork, Dominique has been active in local indigenous issues and involved the development of sustainable heritage resource management strategies.
Dominique has published extensively on these and other topics in various journals including the Journal of Ethnobiology and the Journal of Anthropological Research. Recently published book chapters can be found in Lifeways in the Lowlands, Quintana Roo Archaeology, and In the Maw of the Earth Monster. He has also presented numerous research papers at national and international conferences.
Prior to joining the Waitt Institute, Dominique taught anthropology and archaeology at San Diego State University where he is currently an adjunct professor. He has also taught courses and worked closely with students at the University of California, San Diego. Dominique is a Research Associate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and is director of the Yalahau Archaeological Cave Survey, co-director of Proyecto Costa Escondida, and associate director of the Yalahau Regional Human Ecology Project. He is a Registered Professional Archaeologist and is an active member of the American Anthropological Association, the Society for American Archaeology, the Society for Historical Archaeology, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the Nautical Archaeology Society.
Director of Operations
Michael Dessner grew up in Cedar Falls and studied at the University of Iowa. He served 4 years in the US Army as an Air Defense Artilleryman and was honorably discharged in 1988. In 1992, Michael began working in the salmon fisheries and has lived and worked on the water ever since. He spent 12 years working and managing nearly every position related to Alaskan fisheries, from processor and deckhand in the Bering Sea to serving as buyer and station manager in the Alaskan deep water ports of Homer and Seward. Michael began working for the Waitt Institute in 2005. He is a sonar analyst and scuba diver and is currently honing his skills as an ROV and submersible pilot. An avid outdoorsman, his interests include art, literature, film and most anything having to do with water.
Dive Safety Officer
Joseph Lepore serves as the Waitt Institute’s Dive Safety Officer and oversees all deck operations during missions of discovery. He grew up in Ronkonkoma, New York where he joined the US Navy in 1986. He served his country with distinction and honor for twenty years before retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer and Master Diver in 2006, after which he joined the Waitt Institute team. He completed the Navy’s schools for 2nd Class Diver and 1st Class Diver, as well as the schools for Salvage, Construction and Demolition Diving. During his service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, 6 Meritorious Service Medals, 4 Navy Commendation Medals and 4 Navy Achievement Medals. In his spare time he enjoys boating, fishing and diving. He currently resides in North Carolina with his wife and two children.