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Hendrix Students Travel to Belize for Marine Biology Odyssey Project

DSCF2740 DSCF4617 belizebrandonoliviadrd3CONWAY, Ark. (April 11, 2017) – Hendrix College students Brandon Cathey ’18 and Olivia Sims ’17 traveled to Belize last month with biology professor Dr. Jenn Dearolf to troubleshoot a research project for students in Dr. Dearolf’s marine biology course.

Their trip was funded by the Hendrix Odyssey Program.

The project is an investigation of the environmental parameters that encourage growth of elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (A. cervicornis) coral on the reef. 

According to Dr. Dearolf, the students determined how to deploy and collect data from a flow meter to measure current at depth. Light levels were also measured at the top and bottom of elkhorn coral stands at snorkel sites where this type of coral was abundant and scarce. Finally, GPS coordinates of coral stands were identified in order for them to be found in subsequent years. This identification will allow for multiple years of data to be collected from the same coral stands. 

In addition, the students and Dr. Dearolf were also able to brainstorm with other investigators staying at Belize Marine Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) and identify other variables that could be measured at the coral stands.

They learned about a colorimeter that will allow them to measure the low concentrations of certain ions (nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, calcium) in the water at the coral stands from Dr. LaRoy Brandt, a faculty member at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, as well as a way to quantify the numbers of herbivorous and corallivorous fish at the stands from Dr. Eric Simon of New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire.

The new equipment and techniques will be utilized by future students in Dr. Dearolf’s Marine Biology course. These additions will hopefully allow them to identify the environmental variables that are most important for the growth of elkhorn and staghorn corals on the reef. Both of these corals are listened as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, so determining these variables is critical for their continued survival in the Caribbean.   

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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