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Hendrix Faculty Work with Little Rock Zoo to Monitor Air Quality

Researchers seek additional partners within Little Rock to host monitoring sites 

Hendrix college students, Dr Courtney Hatch, LBK and Tony.jpg

From left: Dr. Laura Bernstein-Kurtycz (Little Rock Zoo), Anna Burford (Hendrix Class of ’25), Dr. Courtney Hatch (Hendrix College Department of Chemistry), Isabel Ritter (Hendrix Class of ’24), and Tony Dawson (Little Rock Zoo) stand outside the Zoo’s administration building, where the air monitor is installed and visible in the upper left-hand corner of the photo.

CONWAY, Arkansas (January 30, 2024)—The Little Rock Zoo and a group of researchers from Hendrix College have partnered to help measure air quality in the community surrounding the Zoo. 

Hendrix College professors Dr. Courtney Hatch of the Department of Chemistry and Dr. Brett Hill of the Department of Sociology/Anthropology, who are part of the Environmental Studies Program faculty and together hold the Nancy and Craig Wood Odyssey Professorship, are working to expand open access to air quality data in and around the Little Rock area. 

“Our Odyssey Professorship project aims to engage students with resources that allow them to answer questions regarding environmental inequality within our community,” Hatch said. “Air quality is just one variable we can use to explore environmental impacts on disadvantaged communities. In August, we collaborated with the Little Rock Sustainability Office to complete a heat mapping campaign within Little Rock. The heat island data we collected provide an alternative lens through which we can explore environmental justice issues on a regional scale.”

Hatch and two students, Anna Burford ’25 and Isabel Ritter ’24, visited the Zoo this past fall to install a Purple Air monitor outside of the Zoo Administration Building. This monitor measures and reports real-time air quality measurements that are open to the local community and are added to a national network of monitoring sites. The data collected by these monitors will help scientists better understand how air quality impacts the local community.

The research team is currently looking for additional partners within Little Rock to host additional monitoring sites. Businesses, private property owners, or government entities may explore participating by contacting Hatch at

Air quality data collected at the Zoo and in other central Arkansas locations will be used to support a summer camp called LEAP (Leadership in Environmental Analysis for the People). Hendrix students who participate in the camp will use open access data to learn how geospatial mapping can provide perspective to local environmental inequities.

The Little Rock Zoo’s Dr. Laura Bernstein-Kurtycz, Conservation and Research Coordinator, is the Zoo liaison between the Hendrix group and the Zoo.  

“We are excited to be a part of this project. Understanding the impacts of air quality on our local environment is important for the health of our community—which includes both humans and animals,” Bernstein-Kurtycz said. “This partnership is a great way to further our commitment to local efforts to improve our environment. Our work with local environmental equality began with our participation in the City’s heat mapping campaign last summer. With conservation as an integral part of our mission, we are glad to have impact on our community by executing this role.”   

Visit the Purple Air site and select “real-time map” to see the data the monitor is collecting at the Little Rock Zoo and to explore other sites across the city and country.

About Hendrix College

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at   

“… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose 

About the Zoo

The Little Rock Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, visit