Shelby Hoogland ’19 was a long way from her hometown of Seward, Alaska, over winter break as she spent seven days with four other Bi-Co students in Roatán, Honduras. The students were in Roatán as part of Haverford Assistant Professor of Biology Kristen Whalen’s marine biology class.
The group spent their time on the island studying the southern edge of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. This reef is the second largest behind the Australian Great Barrier Reef. The abundance of unique marine life found in the large reefs are only comparable to that of the Amazonian Rainforest.
In addition to Whalen’s class, some of Shelby’s favorite courses have included Estuarine Ecology, which was taught by Associate Professor of Biology Tom Mozdzer at Bryn Mawr as part of the 360° cluster Coasts in Transition. That 360° also provided Shelby a chance to do research in the Caribbean and on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, with a trip to Belize as its centerpiece.
“During that trip we studied the northern part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and the roles of the nearby mangroves as nurseries for juvenile reef fish. My concluding interests in those two areas were what made Dr. Whalen’s class and this trip even more interesting,” says Shelby.
While at Bryn Mawr, Shelby, who is a biology major, also spent a semester and much of last summer studying the oceanic environment as a student in the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program.
Shelby notes that both her Bi-Co classes and her studies in the Williams-Mystic program, “weaved together the issues that our oceans face with economic disparity and political unrest seen throughout the world.”
As an example, Shelby mentions the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, who are currently losing footballs fields of sacred, ancestral land in Louisiana everyday with no federal governmental recognition or funds. What’s more, she adds, is that this is happening to indigenous peoples’ lands throughout the world.
“Having these hard, but necessary conversations of how climate change is already impacting vulnerable communities should be at the forefront of every environmentally-focused course that our two colleges can offer.”
After graduation, Shelby plans to return to Seward and will spend the summer working as a marine naturalist.