News Center

Hendrix in Belize 2016

Belize 2CONWAY, Ark. (July 12, 2016) – Eleven Hendrix College students visited Belize this summer to experience firsthand the environments and organisms that they studied in Dr. Jenn Dearolf’s Marine Biology (BIOL 335) course this spring.

In the course, students study rocky and soft bottom intertidal zones, estuaries, and the open and deep ocean, but the focus is on mangroves and coral reefs in order to prepare them for what they will see in Belize. 

Belize has one of the largest barrier reefs on the planet, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and mangroves serve as a nursery for many of the organisms that live on and around the reef.  

Student participants included:

  • Brandon Cathey ’18
  • Kate Emery ’16
  • Kevin Krajcir ’17
  • AC Lee ’17
  • Evan Mitchell ’16 (Laboratory Assistant)
  • Zach Nickell ’17
  • Austin Phillips ’16
  • Sammi Sergeant ’17
  • Olivia Sims ’17
  • Evan Stoll ’16
  • Kelsey Williams ’17

Hendrix in Belize - 20160517 - 10444268This year, Hendrix students designed a study to investigate the environmental parameters that encourage and support elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) growth on the reef.  

“Knowing these parameters will be critical, as these corals, along with the closely related staghorn coral (A. cervicornis), are the main reef builders in the Caribbean,” said Dearolf, adding that both corals are considered “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. 

“We need to know the parameters that create prime elkhorn and staghorn coral habitat in order to better protect them from possible threats and keep their populations healthy and thriving on the Belize Barrier Reef and elsewhere in the Caribbean,” she said.  

Hendrix in Belize - 20160520 - 10285788Students investigated parameters such as water temperature, surface current, salinity, and calcium, nitrate, and phosphate concentrations and looked to see if any of these variables correlated with the growth (height and width) of elkhorn coral at three sites on the Belize Barrier Reef. 

“Interestingly, the results of the study suggest that very small differences in salinity (1 part per thousand) are what makes one site prime elkhorn coral habitat and another site less ideal for the growth of these corals,” said Dearolf. 

See more photos from the trip here.

About Hendrix College

Hendrix College is a private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas. Founded in 1876 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884, Hendrix is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges and is nationally recognized in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings for academic quality, community, innovation, and value. For more information, visit