SAFE Student Spotlight: Cara Cywinski

Cara Cywinski, B.S. Environmental Science (Life Science)
Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund Recipient: Spring 2022

Project: “Recovery from Oxygen Loss in Devonian Oceans: What Can the Marine Fossils of Shine Jinst, Mongolia Tell Us?”

Cywinski received a Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) grant to travel to Mongolia and collect fossils to assist in geological mapping of an outcrop. "We will be using rock samples collected from Southern Mongolia to determine past oxygen levels in ancient oceans (374 million years). This site is important because it represents open-ocean conditions; we are trying to see if oxygen loss occurred throughout the world’s oceans or just in restricted bays and seas," explained Cywinski.

The research trip was an expansion of the skills Cywinski had learned in the classroom at App State. “I was exposed to a variety of new experiences that I never imagined I would have. From the moment I walked out of my door and drove to the airport, everything I have encountered and experienced has been fully out of my comfort zone. Going to Mongolia was my first time traveling abroad as well as camping, which I got to do for three weeks in the Gobi Desert. I tried over 45 different types of foods including mare's milk, fermented sun-dried horse cheese, camel meat, traditional Mongolian barbeque and kimchi. Throughout my time in Mongolia, I have learned who I am as a person and my own strength and my passion for environmental science,” Cywinski said about the experience.

Cywinski will graduate from App State in May 2024 with her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. Currently, she is completing a detailed sedimentological analysis as a member of Team DAGGER (Devonian Anoxia, Geochemistry, Geochronology and Extinction Research) within the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences. 


About the SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at

About the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences
Located in Western North Carolina, Appalachian State University provides the perfect setting to study geological and environmental sciences. The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences provides students with a solid foundation on which to prepare for graduate school or build successful careers as scientists, consultants and secondary education teachers. The department offers six degree options in geology and two degree options in environmental science. Learn more at

SAFE Student Spotlight: Cara Cywinski
Published: Feb 7, 2023 9:08am