Studying Endangered Species

Emily Bell-Hoerth ’14 had read about the Hector’s Dolphin before studying in New Zealand with Earlham’s semester abroad program, but she never expected to see one. The world’s smallest dolphin, this endangered species evades even researchers, and sightings are rare.

While backpacking along the southern coast of New Zealand, Emily and her Earlham peers spotted a pod of Hector’s Dolphins just offshore. They dropped their backpacks and sprinted to the sea.

“It was an incredible rush for someone who loves animals,” said Bell-Hoerth, who swam with the pod for almost an hour in the frigid Pacific, drawn to their playfulness and charisma. “I got this feeling that, yes! This is what I want to protect; this is worth protecting,” she said.

Bell-Hoerth grew up on the coast of Maine, and she brought her love for the ocean with her to Earlham. She has followed her interest in marine biology to the Galapagos and New Zealand, where she took courses with Earlham professors. After her sophomore year, she received a fellowship from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on algae with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine. Bell-Hoerth will graduate in May as one of Earlham’s first Environmental Science majors. “It’s incredibly important work, the kind of socially involved science that this planet needs” she said, excited about growing interest among new students.

Central to her success at Earlham have been strong relationships that Bell-Hoerth developed with her professors. “There is an attitude of equality among professors and students, where we use first names,” she explained. “I have a lot of really close personal relationships with professors, which both invests me in learning but also invests them in me, which makes a wonderful academically enriching community.”

In addition to swimming with dolphins, Bell-Hoerth leads canoe trips for Earlham’s outdoor education program and lives in the Outdoor Education-themed house. Bell-Hoerth has also sung in three of Earlham’s choir groups, played saxophone in Jazz Ensemble, ran Varsity Track, and convenes the Student Faculty Affairs Committee (which offers a student perspective on tenure and promotion decisions).  

Bell-Hoerth says that Earlham has fostered a strong feeling of responsibility for educating people about their environment and the importance of knowing about their surroundings. She plans to pursue interests in environmental education and marine biology when she graduates. “I want to be working in a place where I know I’m serving my environment and my community in a positive way, and making sure that my scientific research has a foundation in direct positive impact to the people and places where I live,” she says. “Or maybe I’ll just become a dolphin trainer.”

Emily Bell-Hoerth
Emily Bell-Hoerth 2014

Hometown: Bath, Maine

Major Environmental Science

Hometown Bath, Maine

Interests outdoor education, choir, jazz saxophone, varsity track, Student Faculty Affairs Committees

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