Orange Alert

Cathryn R.Newton

Cathryn R.Newton

Cathryn R.Newton

Professor; Dean Emerita, College of Arts and Sciences; Senior Advisor to Chancellor and Provost for Faculty Engagement : Marine Paleoecology; Modern and Ancient Extinctions


Earth and Environmental Sciences
466 Life Sciences Complex
Office: 315.443.3487


Social/Academic Links

Courses Taught

  • Earth Science (EAR 105)
  • History of Earth and Life (EAR 102)
  • Introduction to Paleobiology (EAR 325)
  • Graduate Seminar in Mass Extinctions (EAR 600)
  • Graduate Seminar in Paleobiology (EAR 629)
  • Linked Lenses: Science and Philosophy (HNR 250)
  • Oceans and Shipwrecks (HNR 200)
  • Seminar: Modern and Ancient Biodiversity (BIO 200)
Research and Teaching Interests

Prof. Newton’s scholarly work involves studies of modern and ancient biodiversity, including the quantitative dynamics of ancient and modern mass extinction.

Paleoecology and Ocean Sciences


Cathryn R. Newton was raised in Beaufort, NC, home of the Duke Marine Laboratory. As a 16 year old Duke sophomore, she was part of the scientific team (with Harold “Doc” Edgerton of MIT) that found the ironclad MONITOR 111 years after it was lost beneath the sea. She later earned a masters degree in Geology from the University of North Carolina and a doctorate in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she developed an interest in invertebrate paleontology and mass extinctions. Her early work included the book ANCIENT ENVIRONMENTS – co-authored with Leo Laporte and translated into five languages including Japanese and Portugese. She did field work in the Northern Calcareous and Southern Alps, western Canada, and various parts of the United States, and her work on shocked quartz in the Apennines of Italy contributed importantly to explaining the relations of meteorite impacts to mass extinctions. She has spent much time at sea working on modern marine faunas and environments, and has a special interested in low-oxygen environments in both modern and ancient seas. She has published in some fiercely competitive journals, including Science (where some of her papers are denoted Science Classics) and Geology. She continues to do fieldwork at sea and is currently pursuing research on deep-water corals, an area in which she has worked since 1979.

In 1983, Newton joined the faculty of Syracuse University, where she became an award-winning scholar and teacher, a powerfully effective mentor of women in the sciences and co-founding director of the Women in Science and Engineering Program (WISE), and a nationally admired leader both in Earth Sciences and in higher education. She served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for eight years before assuming her present position as the university’s only Professor of Interdisciplinary Sciences – a position that recognizes the broad scope of her scientific work as transcending the boundaries of any one discipline.

In her new project, Newton combines her extensive experience in paleontology and her longstanding fascination with shipwrecks – revealing with captivating stories, rigorous science, and extraordinarily creative insights, that once we recognize the thousands of shipwrecks on the ocean floor as the array of fossils they literally are, we can ask – and answer – new questions that transform our understanding of many aspects of science and of cultural history. Newton has, with this book project, written an elegant, lucid, compelling narrative and also created a searchable data base of thousands of shipwrecks that is an unprecedented resource for future work by others. This combination reveals Newton to be a thinker and writer of extraordinary scope and originality.

Triple Triumph

(Sept. 21, 2017)

New book co-edited by A&S professors Samuel Gorovitz, Cathryn Newton reveals untold stories of three medical pioneers

The Science of Shipwrecks

(Jan. 26, 2017)

A legendary Honors course, taught by Cathryn Newton, uses maritime tragedies to illuminate both science and human culture

New President of National Academy of Sciences to Speak on Climate Interventions April 15

(April 8, 2016)

Renowned geophysicist Marcia McNutt will deliver Seltzer & Slepecky Lecture

The Human Trace

(March 23, 2016)

Earth scientist Lauret Savoy G’90 intertwines natural, cultural history in new book

Cathryn Newton Appointed a Provost’s Faculty Fellow

(Feb. 11, 2015)

Newton will focus on academic philanthropy; large-scale academic space planning; and academic programming initiatives