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Pete van Hengstum

Assistant Professor
Department of Marine Sciences

Phone: +1 (409) 740.4919
Fax: +1 (409) 740.4429

Ocean and Coastal Studies Bldg., Office 383

Get To Know Pete van Hengstum

What in your life drew you to your current field of study?

During my youth, I was exceptionally curious about the planet and global natural history, and I was fascinated with all aspects of science (biology, chemistry, physics, and even some math). However, narrowing the focus to one scientific field presented a challenge. However, Earth sciences and oceanography are broad interdisciplinary fields that routinely apply scientific principles from all fields. Our planet still has many unsolved puzzles and places that have never been studied. As a sedimentologist, the layers of mud deposited in oceanic environments are the pages of history, enabling us to read a new book about global planetary change. Flooded blueholes and caves in the tropics are just such a place. Many of these exotic environments have not yet been visited by humans, and contain records of global planetary change just waiting for us to explore.

What do you hope your students gain from studying or working with you?

Challenging ourselves to learn, problem solve, and grow every day keeps us at the forefront of innovation. A critical life skill is also communicating our new ideas to others. A key goal of my undergraduate teaching is to develop students into life-long independent learners, critical thinkers and effective communicators. My graduate level teaching seeks to further develops these skills in a team-oriented environment, while enhancing skills of scientific inquiry and project management in an area where the student desires a deeper scientific understanding (e.g., climate change, micropaleontology, coastal hazards and dynamics, cave biology). Group learning and knowledge exchange are valued as traits for team success. More technically, graduates will learn to answer scientific questions using several different types of sediment coring techniques (e.g., vibracoring, submersible vibracoring, push coring), may further develop scuba diving skills, sediment core processing (e.g., core archiving, splitting, x-radiography, sampling, sediment textural analysis and petrology, and invertebrate and micro paleontology), sedimentary geochemistry (e.g., stable isotopes and elemental abundance), and geochronology during the late Quaternary. Graduate students can expect to lead their own projects and organize field campaigns, while simultaneously helping others both internationally and domestically in the field and in the lab.

What are you passionate about in your personal life?

My family and I enjoy meeting new people while traveling and exploring new places by water, relaxing by the garden and pool in the evenings with friends, and snorkeling and scuba diving.
Ph.D. Earth Sciences, Dalhousie University, 2010
M.S. Earth and Environmental Sciences, McMaster University, Canada, 2008, summa cum laude
B.S. Earth and Environmental Sciences, McMaster University, Canada, 2005
Courses Taught

GEOL 101: Principles of Geology

GEOL 106:  Historical Geology

MARS 305: Environmental Micropaleontology

MARS 491: Research in Marine Sciences


van Hengstum, PJ, Maale, GE, Donnelly, JP, Onac, B., Sullivan, RM, Winkler, TS, Albury, NA, Tamalavage, A , 2017, Increased hurricane frequency near Florida during Younger Dryas Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation slowdown, Geology, 45 (11), 1047-1050.

Toomey, MR, Korty, RL, Donnelly, JP, van Hengstum, PJ, Curry, WB, 2017, Increased hurricane frequency near Florida during Younger Dryas Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation slowdown, Geology, 45 (11), 1047-1050.

Cresswell, JN*, van Hengstum, PJ, Iliffe, TM, Williams, BE, Nolan, G., 2017, Anthropogenic infilling of a Bermudian sinkhole and its impact on sedimentation and benthic foraminifera in the adjacent anchialine cave environment, International Journal of Speleology 46 (3), 409-425.

Olesen, J, Meland, K, Glenner, H, van Hengstum, PJ, Iliffe, TM, 2017, Xibalbanus cozumelensis, a new species of Remipedia (Crustacea) from Cozumel Island, Mexico, and a molecular phylogeny of Xibalbanus on the Yucatan Peninsula, European Journal of Taxonomy 316, 1-27.

van Hengstum, PJ, Donnelly, JP, Fall, P.L., Toomey, M.R., Albury, N. A., Kakuk, B., 2016, The intertropical convergence zone modulates intense hurricane strikes on the western North Atlantic margin, Nature's Scientific Reports, 6, 21728; doi: 10.1038/srep21728.

Winkler*, T.S., van Hengstum, P.J., Horgan, M.C., Donnelly, J.P., Reibenspies, J.H., 2016, Detrital cave sediments reveal late Quaternary hydrologic and climatic variability in northwestern Florida, USA, Sedimentary Geology, 335, 51-65.

Donnelly, JP, Hawkes, AD, Lane, P, MacDonald, D, Shuman, BN, Toomey, MR, van Hengstum, PJ, Woodruff, JD, 2015, Climate forcing of unprecedented intense-hurricane activity over the last 2,000 years. Earth's Future 3 (2): 49-65.

van Hengstum, PJ, Donnelly, JP, Kingston, AW, Williams, B., Scott, DB, Reinhardt, EG, Little, SN, Patterson, W, 2015, Late Holocene low frequency storminess in Bermuda linked to cooling events in the North Atlantic region. Paleoceanography 30 (2): 52-76.

van Hengstum, PJ, Scott, DB, Gröcke, DR, Charette, MR, 2011, Sea level controls sedimentation and environments in coastal caves and sinkholes, Marine Geology 286, 35-50.

van Hengstum, PJ, Reinhardt, EG, Beddows, PA, Gabriel, JJ, 2010, Investigating linkages between Holocene paleoclimate and paleohydrogeology in a Yucatan underwater cave. Quaternary Science Reviews 29, 2788-2798.


2017: van Hengstum, P.J., *Cresswell, J.N., Iliffe, T.M., Stratigraphic evidence for Holocene environmental change in a Bermudian coastl underwater cave (Palm Cave System): Implications for Bermuda’s sea-level history. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting Abstracts with Programs, v. 49, no. 6, doi: 10.1130/abs/2017AM-307403, Seattle, Washington.

2017: van Hengstum, P.J., *Maale, G., *Sulivan, R., *Winkler, T.S., *Kelley, K., Donnelly, J.P., Albury, N.A., Onac, B.P., Evidence for Holocene hydroclimate variability in the Northern Bahamas (Abaco Island) based on sinkhole lake sediment records. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting Abstracts with Programs, v. 49, no. 6, doi: 10.1130/abs/2017AM-306400, Seattle, Washington.


Grants and Fellowships
2017: National Science Foundation (NSF) EAR, $650,699 ($266, 227 to TAMUG, EAR-1703087); van Hengstum, PJ (PI), Feakins, SJ, Coats, S, Donnelly, JD, Diagnosing the timing and drivers of northeastern Caribbean Holocene droughts with sinkhole lake records.

2016: National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (NSF C-DEBI); $80,000. Labonté, J.M (PI), van Hengstum, PJ (co-PI), Subseafloor bacterial and viral communities and interactions in anoxic marine basins: a case study from a 3000-yr old stratigraphic succession.

2015: National Science Foundation (NSF) OCE RAPID (Award #1519557); van Hengstum, PJ (PI), Wallace, D., Marine Geology and Geophysics: Disentangling the sedimentary signal in coastal submarine caves and ponds in Bermuda with implications for the entire North Atlantic Basin, $24,993.

2014: National Science Foundation (NSF) OCE (Award # 1356708, 1356509); Donnelly, JD (PI), van Hengstum, PJ (co-PI), Marine Geology and Geophysics: Collaborative Research: Holocene Tropical Cyclone Variability in the Western North Atlantic, $539,010 + UNOLS cruise in Jamaica aboard the R/V Atlantis ($183,599 to TAMUG).
Awards & Recognition

2017: TAMU Montage-CTE Scholar for Teaching Excellence

2010: National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Post Doctoral Fellow

2010: Johanna M. Resig Foraminiferal Research Fellowship

2008: NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Gradate Fellowship

2008: NSERC Canadian Oceanographic and Meteorological Society Scholarship

2006: NSERC Canada Gradate Fellowship

Professional Appointments

2011 – 2013: NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Current Graduate Students

Jacque N. Cresswell, MARB Ph.D. student

Shawna N. Little, MARB Ph.D. Student

Richard M. Sullivan, OCNG Ph.D. Student

Annie Tamalavage, OCNG Ph.D. student

Tyler S. Winkler, OCNG, Ph.D. Student