A Hendrix student takes photographs of coral in the waters of Belize on a Summer 2021 research trip.
CONWAY, Ark. (June 10, 2021) — After commencement, Hendrix
biology faculty members Dr. Jenn Dearolf and Dr. Adam Schneider traveled with
16 students from Dearolf’s Marine Biology class on a 10-day trip to San Pedro,
Belize, on the island of Ambergris Caye.
The group spent eight days on the water, snorkeling various
sites on the Belize Barrier Reef, the longest barrier reef in the Caribbean.
Because of the pandemic, very few people had visited the reef
for more than a year. As a result, Dearolf, Schneider, and the students saw an
abundance of animals, including three manatees and a pod of seven dolphins,
which hung out with them for over 30 minutes.
Sadly, they also observed the skeletons of pillar coral (Dendrogyra
cylindricus), a unique type of coral. There were two large stands of this
coral directly in front of San Pedro. Both stands were thriving in March 2020,
when the directors of Belize Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC), the
facility at which Dr. Dearolf’s group stayed, had to leave the island because
of covid-19. When they returned this May and visited the site with her group,
the coral was dead. Currently, it is unclear why this coral died, but it has
been struggling throughout the Caribbean and on the Florida reefs.
To help preserve corals, Dr. Dearolf and her students are
studying environmental conditions conducive to the growth of elkhorn coral (Acropora
palmata), another important coral species in the Caribbean. Elkhorn and
staghorn coral (A. cervicornis) are the major reef builders in this
For their study, Dr. Dearolf’s students measured the height
and width of coral stands at sites where this coral is abundant and where it is
not. They also recorded environmental parameters (e.g., light levels, current
speeds, and water temperature) and collected water samples. The water samples
are analyzed for the concentrations of ions that are important for the growth
of the coral.
Each of the students in the Marine Biology class will write
up the results of their experiment in the form of a scientific journal article
and submit it to complete their work for the class. In addition, a subset of
the students who traveled to Belize will also earn Global Awareness (GA) Odyssey credit by writing
a paper reflecting on their experiences in Belize and snorkeling on the barrier
About Hendrix College
private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently
earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions,
and is featured in Colleges That Change
Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its
academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a
fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876,
Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn
more, visit www.hendrix.edu.