News Center

Hendrix Professor to Conduct Research in Antarctica

Gantz_Jan2018_9156 by Leslie Potts_web.jpg

J.D. Gantz on a boat to a research site near Palmer Station, Antarctica, during an early summer snowstorm in January 2018. / Photo by Leslie Potts

CONWAY, Ark. (September 12, 2019) – Hendrix Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. J.D. Gantz is preparing for an unusual pause in his teaching schedule next semester. Instead of a one-week Spring Break, he will spend five weeks studying insects in Antarctica.

Gantz traveled to Antarctica in 2016, 2017, and 2018 as a graduate student at Miami University, thanks to a grant his Ph.D. advisor received. The research team studied the Antarctic midge, the only insect native to the continent. Across the three trips, Gantz spent almost a full year of his doctoral studies at Palmer Station, a small Antarctic research post that can accommodate just 44 people. 

From Palmer Station’s location between a glacier and the ocean, the team studied the Antarctic midge in multiple settings. Because windy conditions discourage long distance travel, the midge is wingless and probably doesn’t range far in its lifetime, suggesting that localized populations of the insect are isolated from those around them. In these studies, the team saw significant variations in the basic physiology and development of insects within just a couple of miles of each other. 

“Each population seems to be individually adapting to the micro-climate where they’re living,” Gantz said—which is important when variations in sunlight, wind, snow cover, and food source can mean that populations separated by just a few hundred feet may never experience the same conditions. “We’re curious to see how the physiology and the genetics vary over a larger area.” 

Because their work in 2020 will focus on how midge populations differ across larger distances, Gantz and others in this research group will work from a National Science Foundation-contracted icebreaker ship that will make it possible to collect insects along much of the Antarctic Peninsula. 

The grant funding this expedition will allow a former Hendrix student to join in the trip: Jacob Idec ’19 will accompany Gantz and contribute to the research as part of the gap year he is taking before graduate school. 

The five-week cruise will run from mid-February to late March, so Gantz’s colleagues at Hendrix will cover his course load for that time. Gantz pointed out that that type of flexibility doesn’t happen at every college or university. “I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to Hendrix and to the Biology Department…. It means a lot to be here at a place that’s so supportive of my research,” Gantz said.

Antarctic midge photo by J.D. Gantz

About Hendrix College

A 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