A University of Wyoming professor and UW Extension soil fertility specialist died Thursday after being caught in an avalanche in the Teton backcountry.
Jay Norton, 61, a member of the faculty of UW’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, was skiing in the Game Creek drainage on the western slope of the Tetons near Victor, Idaho.
“We have lost a talented and beloved member of our community,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “Our hearts go out to his friends and family as we all grieve his loss.”
Norton’s spouse, Urszula Norton, is an associate professor in UW’s Department of Plant Sciences.
“Dr. Norton was a consummate scholar who was committed to the improvement of Wyoming agriculture and support of its natural resources. He was able to engage with students at both a personal and professional level at a rare level, and he brought a high level of energy and goodwill to every activity,” says Professor Scott Miller, head of the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. “To know Jay was to love him, and he will be deeply missed. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Urszula, and son, Cazi.”
Norton joined UW as an assistant professor in 2006, was promoted to associate professor in 2012, and became a full professor in 2018. He operated a highly productive research lab investigating soil and ecosystem health, organic agriculture and a range of issues that support Wyoming agriculture and ecosystem sustainability, including soil nutrition and carbon cycling.
As a UW Extension specialist, Norton worked directly with stakeholders across Wyoming and was skilled at crafting research that would dovetail with his extension activities, Miller says. Norton also was a skilled instructor who taught classes ranging from entry-level survey courses through the graduate level.
Norton came to UW after more than 20 years as a soil scientist, researcher and teacher in Montana, Iowa, Utah and California. He earned a Ph.D. in resource conservation and soil science from the University of Montana, where he also received his bachelor’s degree in geology. His master’s degree in agronomy and soil science was from Iowa State University.
“Jay was a wonderful friend and terrific colleague,” Miller says. “He had an infectious positive spirit that he carried everywhere. He is remembered for his excellence in scholarly activities as well as the warmth, friendship and good humor he brought to his community.”