Geology professor Connie Soja recognized for extensive research of fossil reefs

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Colgate geology professor Connie Soja has led field expeditions to Alaska’s North Pacific coast, the Australian outback, and Mongolia’s Gobi Desert that have yielded new insights into novel ecologic relationships in ancient reefs and how past environmental transformations help predict global change in reef communities today.

In recognition of her work, Soja, a member of the Denison University class of 1979, was recently honored by her alma mater with an alumni citation, the highest honor bestowed upon a graduate or friend of the college.

The National Science Foundation, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Keck Geology Consortium have granted funding for Soja’s global research on fossil reefs.

In the Ural Mountains and Siberia, she and her U.S. and Russian colleagues established the first-ever documented links between the geology of Russia and southeastern Alaska. With Colgate students, she also has published research on dinosaur eggs and the conditions that favored their preservation in the fossil record. She is completing a book on “The Last Good Buy:  Evolution in the New Age of Extinction” to focus attention on endangered species around the world.

Soja teaches courses on evolution; paleontology; Darwin and the Victorian Age of Discovery, with field trips in the United Kingdom; a seminar on reefs that includes a field course in the Bahamas or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; and a first-year seminar on “The Sixth Extinction” or modern biodiversity crisis. She offers science education workshops on biomimicry to high school teachers and on dinosaurs to elementary school teachers and their students. She also has directed Colgate’s study abroad programs in England, Wales, and Australia and has conducted research with nearly 50 Colgate and other undergraduate students. Soja’s findings have appeared in dozens of publications and shared in many professional conference talks.

In addition to her bachelor’s degree, Soja earned her doctorate in paleontology from the University of Oregon in 1985. She is past-president of the Paleontological Research Institution and associate editor of the paleontology journal Palaios. At Colgate, she was recognized as a Presidential Scholar, University Professor, was selected as Colgate’s Professor of the Year in 2007, and is a Smithsonian lecturer for its travel abroad programs.