Pete van Hengstum

Associate Professor
Department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science

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

Ocean and Coastal Studies Bldg., Office 383

Google Scholars Page

Learn more about Pete van Hengstum

Get To Know Pete van Hengstum

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

Our planet is out of equilibrium. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations now exceed 400 parts per million for the first time in 3 million years (Pliocene Epoch), when global temperatures were 2-3°C higher, global ice sheets were smaller, and sea level was much higher than present. I am interested in climate and environmental change through time, and more specifically, understanding how hurricane activity, coastal flooding, rainfall and droughts, and landscapes (e.g., vegetation, coastal landforms) have changed over the last 20,000 years. This is the field of paleoclimatology, where sediment records in the oceans, coastal environments and lakes are commonly used to reconstruct climate change. As a certified technical cave diver, early in my career I realized that the sediment records in remote sinkholes and blue holes in the North Atlantic Ocean were not being widely applied to climate science because sampling in blue holes presents unique technical and engineering challenges. As a National Geographic Explorer (since 2018), I now led a team that is (a) documenting how blue hole environments and ecosystems presently function, and (b) using sediment records from blue holes to learn more about hurricane activity and rainfall patterns in the Atlantic Ocean.

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, 
Hons. B.Sc. Earth and Environmental Sciencessumma cum laude, 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


*Asterisk denotes student of PvH while research was being conducted.


Krywy-Janzen, A., Reinhardt, E, McNeill-Jewer, C., Coutino, A., Waltham, B, Stastna, M, Rissolo, D, Meacham, S, van Hengstum, PJ, 2019, Water-level change recorded in Lake Pac Chen Quintana Roo, Mexico infers connection with the aquifer and response to Holocene sea-level rise and Classic Maya Droughts, Journal of Paleolimnology (in press).

van Hengstum, PJ, *Winkler, TS, *Tamalavage, AE, *Sullivan, RM, Little, SN*, MacDonald, D, Donnelly, JP, Albury, NA, 2019, Holocene sedimentation in a blue hole surrounded by carbonate tidal flats in The Bahamas: autogenic versus allogenic processes, Marine Geology (in press).

Wallace, EJ, Donnelly, JP, van Hengstum, PJ, Wiman, C, *Sullivan, RM, *Winkler, TS, D’Entremont, N, Toomey, M. 2019, Intense hurricane activity over the past 1500 years at South Andros Island, The Bahamas, Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology (in press).

van Hengstum, PJ, *Cresswell, JN, Milne, G.A., Iliffe, TM, 2019, Development of anchialine cave habitats and karst subterranean estuaries since the last ice age. Scientific Reports 9, 11907,

Little, SN*, van Hengstum, PJ, 2019, Intertidal and subtidal foraminifera in flooded caves: implications for reconstructing coastal karst aquifers and cave paleoenvironments, Marine Micropaleontology 149, 19-34.


Tamalavage, AE*, van Hengstum, PJ, Louchouarn, P, Molodtsov, S., Kaiser, K., Donnelly, JP, Albury, NA, Fall, PL, 2018, Organic matter sources and lateral sedimentation in a Bahamian karst basin (sinkhole) over the late Holocene: influence of local vegetation and climate, Submitted to journal: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 506, 70-83.

van Hengstum, PJ, *Maale, GE, Donnelly, JP, Albury, NA, Onac, B, *Sullivan, RM, *Winkler, TS, *Tamalavage, AE, MacDonald, D, 2018, Drought in the Northern Bahamas from 3300 to 2500 years ago, Quaternary Science Reviews, 186, 169-185, doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2018.02.014.


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, doi:

*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.


Gerovasileiou, G., Martínez, A, Álverez, F, Boxshall, G, Humphreys, WF, Jaume, D, Becking, LE, Muricy, G, van Hengstum, PJ, Dekeyzer, S, Decock, W, Vanhoorne, B, Vandepitte, L, Bailly, N, Iliffe, T.M., 2016, Gerovasileiou, G., World Register of marine Cave Species (WoRCS): a new thematic species database for marine and anchialine cave biodiversity, Research Ideas and Outcomes, doi: 10.3897/rio.2.e10451.

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, 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, doi: 10.1016/j.sedgeo.2016.01.022.

van Hengstum, PJ, Bernhard, JM, 2016, A new species of brackish foraminifera from an inland Bahamian carbonate marsh, Journal of Foraminiferal Research, 46 (2), 193-200.


Singh, V, Pandita, SK, Tewari, R, van Hengstum, PJ, Pillai, SSK, Agnihotri, D, Kumar, K, Bhat, GD, 2015 Thecamoebians (Testate Amoebae) straddling the Permian-Triassic Boundary in the Guryul Ravine Section, India: Evolutionary and Palaeoecological Implications, PLOS One, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135593 accepted 27 July, 2015.

Donnelly, JP, Hawkes, AD, Lane, P, McDonald, D, Shuman, BN, Toomey, MR, van Hengstum, PJ, Woodruff, JD, 2015, Climate forcing of unprecedented intense-hurricane activity in the last 2,000 years Earth’s Future 3 (2), 49-65, doi: 10.1002/2014EF000274.

van Hengstum, PJ, Donnelly, JP, Kingston, AW, Williams, BE, Scott, DB, Reinhardt, EG, Little, SN, Patterson, WP, 2015, Late Holocene low frequency storminess in Bermuda linked to cooling events in the North Atlantic region, Paleoceanography 30 (2), 52-76, doi: 10.1002/2014PA002662.


Donnelly, J.D., Anderson, J.B., Hawkes, A.D., Otvos, E., Toomey, M.R., van Hengstum, P.J., Wallace, D.J., Woodruff, J.D., 2014, Comment on: “The geological legacy of Hurricane Irene: implications for the fidelity of the paleo-storm record” GSA Today Online, pages e28-29, doi: 10.1130/GSATG205C.1.

Brown, A, Reinhardt, EG, van Hengstum, PJ, Pilarcyzk, JE, 2014, A coastal Yucatan sinkhole records intense hurricane events, Journal of Coastal Research 30 (2), 418-428, doi: 10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-13-00069.1.

van Hengstum, PJ, Donnelly, JP, *Toomey, MR, Albury, NA, Kakuk, B, 2014, Heightened hurricane activity from 1350 to 1650 AD in the northern Bahamas. Continental Shelf Research 86, 103-115, doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2013.04.032.


Kovacs, SE, van Hengstum, PJ, Reinhardt, EG, Donnelly, JP, Albury, NA, 2013, The late Holocene flooding history of Runway Sinkhole: a partially flooded coastal karst basin in the northern Bahamas, Quaternary International 317, 118-132.

Toomey, MR, Curry, WB, Donnelly, JP, van Hengstum, PJ, 2013, Reconstructing 7000 years of North Atlantic hurricane variability using deep-sea sediment cores from the western Great Bahama Bank. Paleoceanography 28 (1), 31-41, doi:

2012 and earlier

van Hengstum, PJ, Scott, DB, 2012, Sea-level rise and coastal circulation controlled Holocene groundwater development in Bermuda and caused a meteoric lens to collapse 1600 years ago. Marine Micropaleontology 90-91, 29-43, doi: 10.1016/j.marmicro.2012.02.007.

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, doi:

van Hengstum, PJ, Scott, DB, 2011, Ecology of foraminifera and habitat variability in an underwater cave: distinguishing anchialine versus submarine cave environments. Journal of Foraminiferal Research 41 (3), 201-229.

van Hengstum, PJ, Reinhardt, EG, Beddows, PA, Gabriel, JJ, 2010, Linkages between Holocene paleoclimate and paleohydrogeology in a Yucatan underwater cave. Quaternary Science Reviews 29, 2788-2798, doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.06.034.

van Hengstum, PJ, Scott, DB, Javaux, EJ, 2009, Foraminifera in Bermudian caves provide further evidence for a +21 m eustatic sea level during Marine Isotope Stage 11. Quaternary Science Reviews 28, 1850-1860, doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2009.05.017.

van Hengstum, PJ, Reinhardt, EG, Beddows, PA, Schwarcz, HP, Gabriel, JJ, 2009, Foraminifera and testate amoebae (thecamoebians) in an anchialine cave: Surface distributions from Aktun Ha (Carwash) cave system, Mexico. Limnology and Oceanography 54 (1), 391-396, doi: 10.4319/lo.2009.54.1.0391.

Gabriel, JJ, Reinhardt, EG, Peros, MC, Davidson, DE, van Hengstum, PJ, Beddows, PA, 2009, Palaeoenvironmental evolution of cenote Aktun Ha (Carwash) on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, and its response to Holocene sea level rise. Journal of Paleolimnology 42 (2), 199-213, doi: 10.1007/s10933-008-9271-x.

van Hengstum, PJ, Reinhardt, EG, Beddows, PA, Huang, RJ, Gabriel, JJ, 2008, Thecamoebians (testate amoebae) and foraminifera from three anchialine cenotes in Mexico: low salinity (1.5 – 4.5 psu) faunal transitions. Journal of Foraminiferal Research 38 (4), 305-317.

van Hengstum, PJ, Gröcke, DR, 2008, Middle Devonian (Eifelian – Givetian) ocean anoxic event: high resolution stable isotopic record of the Kačák Event at Hungry Hollow, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 45, 353-366, doi: 10.1139/E08-005.

van Hengstum, PJ, Reinhardt, EG, Medioli, FS, Gröcke, DR, 2007, Exceptionally preserved late Cretaceous (Albian) Thecamoebians (Arcellaceans) from the Dakota Formation near Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. Journal of Foraminiferal Research 37(4), 300-308.

van Hengstum, PJ, Reinhardt, EG, Boyce, JI, Clark, C, 2007, Changing sedimentation patterns due to historical land-use change in Frenchman’s Bay, Pickering, Canada: evidence from high-resolution textural analysis. Journal of Paleolimnology 37, 603-618, doi: 10.1007/s10933-006-9057-y.

Reinhardt, EG, Goodman, BN, Boyce, JI, Lopez, G, van Hengstum, P, Rink, WJ, Mart, Y, Raban, A, 2006, The Tsunami of December 13, 115 A.D. and the destruction of Herod the Great’s Harbor at Caesarea Maritima, Israel. Geology 34 (12), 1061-1064, doi: 10.1130/G22780A.1.


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

2019: National Science Foundation (NSF) PREEVENTS Track 2 (Awards #1854929, #1854956, #1854993, #1854917, #1854980), Donnelly, JP, Emanuel, K, Lin, N, Karnauskas, K, Korty, R, van Hengstum, PJ, Collaborative Research: Predicting Hurricane Risk along the United States East Coast in a Changing Climate, $2,222,683 ($317,055 to TAMUG).

2018: National Science Foundation (NSF) EAR (Award #1833117), Munoz, SE (PI Northeastern University), Beighley, RE, van Hengstum, PJ, Collaborative Research: Reevaluating precipitation extremes and flood hazard in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, $259, 140, ($59, 204 to TAMUG)

2018: National Geographic Society, van Hengstum, PJ (PI), Donnelly, JP, Steadman, DW, Albury, NA, Beddows, PA, Feakins, S, 15,000 years of hurricane disasters and drought on a Caribbean Island: implications for island biogeography, future climate change, and human migration in the tropical Americas, ($28, 436 to TAMUG)

2017: National Science Foundation (NSF) EAR (Award #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, $650,699 ($266, 227 to TAMUG).

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

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

Jose Mendez, MARS, MMRM student