Dr. Cynthia M. Liutkus-Pierce

Dr. Liutkus-Pierce is a sedimentologist and is the new Director of the Environmental Science Program in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences. She currently teaches Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, Evolution of the Earth, and a variety of other introductory courses and labs.  She was inducted into Appalachian's Academy of Outstanding Teachers in 2016, and was awarded the UNC Board of Governors Appalachian State University Excellence in Teaching Award for 2017.

Dr. Liutkus-Pierce has three main areas of research interest. One aspect focuses on determining the origin, growth, and stable isotope signatures of non-pedogenic carbonates. This work studies plant casts that form in semi-arid playas in the western USA, called "phytocasts". Another aspect of her research uses techniques in sedimentology, stratigraphy, and stable isotope geochemistry to reconstruct rift basin systems in both the USA (in collaboration with the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the National Museums of Scotland) and in East Africa. Lastly, the third aspect of her research involves reconstructing hominin paleoenvironments in Africa, including several sites in Tanzania and Namibia that contain footprints of our early human ancestors. This work is being done in collaboration with several other institutions, including the Smithsonian Institute, George Washington University, Rutgers University, the University of the Witswatersrand, and the local governments of both countries.  The work on the Engare Sero Footprint Site in Tanzania has recently been showcased by a number of news outlets including the Washington Post, National Geographic, and many others.  Dr. Liutkus-Pierce is a National Geographic Explorer for her work reconstructing paleoenvironments, and was named a Fellow of the Explorers Club in 2017.


  • B.A. Bucknell University
  • M.S. Rutgers University
  • Ph.D. Rutgers University

Courses Taught

  • GLY 1102 - Introduction to Historical Geology
  • GLY 1103 - Environmental Change, Hazards, and Resources
  • HON 2515 - Geoforensics
  • GLY 2250 - Evolution of the Earth
  • GLY 3800 - Introduction to Sedimentology and Stratigraphy


Title: Professor and Director of the Environmental Science Program: Sedimentology and Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction
Department: Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences

Email address: Email me

Phone: (828) 262-6933