Where does that come from? How does that work? How does that affect me?
Dr. Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce explores these kinds of questions each day in the geology classes she teaches at Appalachian State University, prompting her students to think more deeply about the earth and/or issues they deal with all the time, such as climate change or global warming.
“To be able to answer those questions is just really exciting for me,” she said.
Liutkus-Pierce, a self-described “classical sedimentologist,” studies sediments that are deposited in a range of different environments. In the process, she attempts to answer many questions:
What did the past environment look like? Is the current environment the result of deposits from a river or a beach? What forces, in other words, put these pieces together in the way they’re currently arranged?
More specifically, Liutkus-Pierce has conducted research with a variety of aims. She has studied plant casts in the western United States. She has reconstructed rift basin systems in the U.S. and East Africa. And she’s reconstructed environments of early human ancestors in Tanzania and Namibia.
“I use all this stuff in the classroom as well,” she said. “I’ll tell them about what I do in my lab and research, so they see some real-world applications for it.”
Many undergraduates at Appalachian have aided Liutkus-Pierce in her research. The main reason that they have this opportunity is that Appalachian’s Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences serves undergraduate students only – there are no graduate students.
Many of Liutkus-Pierce’s students have gone on to graduate school. Others have secured positions at environmental consulting firms, mineral-exploration companies, oil companies and museums.
Dr. Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce has studied plant casts in the U.S., reconstructed rift basin systems in the U.S. and East Africa, and reconstructed environments of early human ancestors in Tanzania and Namibia.