This was the third published article of my very young career. It ran in The Appalachian.
Cynthia Liutkus has been swimming with sharks.
Liutkus, a geology professor at Appalachian State University, was doing research in Cape Town when she was presented with the opportunity to swim with Great White Sharks in Gansbaii, South Africa.
“I didn’t think!” she said. “The guy on the boat asked who wanted to get in the cage first and I’m not even kidding you, my hand shot up.”
Liutkus has also traveled to Tanzania, Namibia, Greece and Turkey for work, and she is not the only member of the geology department who has traveled extensively.
“Between us, we’ve been to all seven continents, from the top of the Himalayas to the bottom of the Pacific,” she said.
Department Chair Johnny Waters said he leaves the country two to three times a year on average. In the past decade, he has been to Spain, Portugal, Russia, France, Italy, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Tibet, Japan, England, Belgium and China.
Waters is careful to note this is typical of every geologist.
“If someone hasn’t been to as many places, it’s just because they haven’t been in the field as long,” he said.
Students in the department also have exceptional opportunities to travel.
Senior geology major Seth M. Hewitt has already done fieldwork in the Dominican Republic and Tanzania. He hopes to go to Jamaica this spring and back to Africa next summer.
“I’d love to hit all of the continents before I die,” he said. “I’ve gotten three of the seven.”
Anna G. Hazen, senior geology major, has done fieldwork in New Mexico, Arizona, Montana and Ireland.
Describing her paleontology field trip to New Mexico and Arizona, Hazen said, “We just went out there, went to a museum, looked around…and, you know, dug up dinosaurs.”
Liutkus, Waters, Hewitt, and Hazen all said they have had unique cultural experiences through travel, in addition to research.
Hazen loved seeing Arthur Guiness’s castle in Ireland, as well as potato famine villages and megalithic tombs.
Liutkus and Hewitt both enjoyed meeting people in Tanzania who are economically less fortunate but “always singing, always smiling,” Liutkus said.
“They live in these tiny little houses with no electricity,” Hewitt said. “But they’re still so happy.”
Waters was struck most by the camaraderie that arises when people from different countries and backgrounds are working on research together.
“It transcends gender, it transcends politics and it transcends age,” he said.
Liutkus said she uses the promise of similar experiences as a recruiting tool for the department. She has a map in her office that she has pinned with all of the places she’s visited.
“I use that map and say, ‘There’s all of the places I’ve been with work,’” she said. “And I put ‘work’ in huge quotations.”