A smashing success…

And so end’s Stony Brook University’s first Tropical Marine Ecology class.  I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way the class played out.  The facilities at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab were perfectly suited to all aspects of the class.  The students worked extremely hard, learned a tremendous amount about coral reef organisms and function, and executed successful, in-depth research projects.  It was  gratifying to oversee many student firsts during the class:  First SCUBA dive, first trip out of the country, first examination of a coral reef, first experience making a graph, first experience with a statistical test, first independent research project, etc.  Student gave final PowerPoint presentations of their research projects on Friday afternoon which were impressive and of a high quality.  I’ll hold off final judgment of each project until Friday…the last day they may hand in their final papers.

For site visitors, continue to check back, as we will post more pictures and information about student projects in the near future.

Got Padina??

Well it’s not actually my turn to write a blog but I felt like doing so anyway. Being in Jamaica has been such a wonderful experience for me. Yesterday was amazing. I have never seen so many beautiful flowers and plants before in my life. Well living in Brooklyn I do have a sort of disadvantage but anyway..

I feel the best part of our field trip was getting to swim in the watering hole. Chris decided that everyone needed a little mud war paint. Which turned into an interesting "mud wrestling" match. Let me just say it may be good for the skin but its bad for the hair!!! and seeing everyone scale the muddy wall to jump off those rocks/swing off the vine made me realize.. I’m not that crazy =)

Getting to my project. I am studying seagrass beds to determine if they serve as nurseries for juvenile fish species. I have been snorkeling to various seagrass beds within Discovery Bay and using point count/string method noting what different types of fish I see, their stages and what size category they fit into. So far it seems as though my hypothesis is on the right tract. There seems as though there are a lot of young organisms living in a around the sea grass beds.

Tomorrow we present our final projects and all our lovely data we have collected over the week. Should be a very interesting thing to see. Also we get one last hurrah at leaving the compound tomorrow night. I can’t believe our stay in sunny Jamaica is almost over. I don’t know if I am about ready to leave 80+degree weather but hey I do love NY and the snow. So to my mom and sister (Hey Jen Jen!!) who are probably reading this, I love you guys and don’t worry I’ll be home soon with presents =) Oh and the ankle..GREAT hasnt hurt at all for days now.

Tonight were having a bond fire and a movie night. should be fun. Need marshmellows!! send some marshmellows!!!

I’m off to take some more pictures… and get in a few more snorkels while I still have the chance. I think I hear the chicken song playing..gotta run!


Alright its finally my turn again, since i just wrote half my blog until the computer somehow erased it before i could save it. but yea The last week has been a lot of data collecting and processing this data.  My topic is to get the species diversity of hard corals and also the percent coverage of hard coral versus the percent coverage of algae on the fore reef infront of our Discovery Bay Marine Lab. I will be comparing my results to a previously written paper in 1994 by a fellow by the name of Aronson, who collected the same information. I am trying to look at long term coral change of our reef, simply… is it doing better or worse. But i have only one more dive left to collect all my data, so i’m almost done collecting and will be soon looking at my results. And for the family reading YES i did say one more Dive. I did get scuba certified while down here, among others. Figured i’d throw you a curve ball. It is one of the most narly things i have ever done. So cool, you feel like your cheating death by breathing under water and it makes the Jamaican experience so much better. As seen below as i "search" for my new location for data collecting. But ummm yea today started out with the usual breakfast from our wonderful cooks. Then a morning dive outside Discovery Bay…followed by lunch….blah blah blah. Same ol stuff, BUT today we were again let out of our cage. We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day…hardly any clouds, mid 80’s…perfection. Oh by the way, hows the weather in NY??? anyway we went to Cranbrook forest, an amazing piece of land that stretched out into the mountains. We got to hike around the woods while following a river that led to a water fall where we could all go swimming and cool off. This place was straight out of a movie if you ask me, so beautiful, they even had natural vines coming down off a ridge where you could swing out into a natural pool. To say the least today’s trip was one of the major highlights for me during this class. Besides our riveting lectures given by Brad and Chris. Afterwards we drove back to the ‘bat cave’ to eat dinner and go over a few things about our finals papers. Now i find myself here and soon after at my computer going over what i collected today….nice right. So here i must leave you and say fare well. special shout to the fam…love and miss ya…….Give my Ella girl a kiss for me. I’ll see you soon….tons of stories….one love! oh and Caulerpa!

-Tim D


Ann-Marie’s Research Project

Diadema, otherwise known as spiny sea urchins are a valuable part of any coral reef ecosystem. Within the past decade or so massive amounts of coral bleaching as occurred due to increasing water temperatures and nutrient run-off into the bays here in Jamaica. These conditions favor the growth of macroalgae which smother the corals on the reef and eventually kill them and also prevent new larval corals from establishing themselves. Diadema are the power source behind the control of the macroalgae coverage. They are intense herbivores that are normally found in dense packs grazing the macroalgae along the reefs.

My project is to determine Diadema grazing preferences and consumption rates of vegetation.Previous research shows that Diadema prefer to graze on red turf algae, but I want to determine their preferences if red turf algae is not available for consumption. I currently have two set-ups in the wet lab of 3 tanks a piece (total of 6 tanks). Each tank has an equal wet-weight samples of Halimedia, Sargassum, and Thalassia for the Diadema to graze on. Each trial runs for a 48 with observations being taken ever couple of hours and then the remaining vegetation is taken out of each tank and re-weighed. My results so far show that after one trial the Diadema have a preferences for Sargassum, a brown algae, over the Halimedia and Thalassia. But, I have observed noticeable grazing marks on the Thalassia within the tanks. I have also noted that most of the grazing activity happens at night when there are no lights on in the wet lab. Tomorrow trials 2 and 3 will be finished with their 48 hour grazing period and the samples will re-weighed and I’m hoping to get at least 2 more trials done before the end of my experiment.

Along with the laboratory experiment I’m also currently working with other students, Dawn, who is working on determining natural Diadema grazing preferences out in the field and Brian who is doing scuba transects for Diadema abundances. Dawn and I have set-up 4 cages (4 exclusion and 4 inclusion) out in Discovery Bay on algae patches. Surveys of the algal coverage were taken before three Diadema were placed in each of the inclusion cages. So far Dawn’s observations show that the field Diadema prefer to graze on red turf algae and have been grazing pretty heavily within the cages.

The last part to my research will be attempting to do some Diadema dissections to determine what they have been grazing on out in the wild. Professor Peterson showed me how to do the dissections and the first couple were pretty rocky for me, but I’m willing to give it another shot. I would like to divide up what the Diadema are grazing on into categories: brown algae, green algae, red algae, and sea grass.The dissection information combined with the lab experiments and the field experiments will hopefully show that Diadema do prefer red turf algae as their main source for grazing, but also that other types of vegetation are consumed when red turf algae is not available.

Of Sun and Urchins

Yesterday was another beautiful day in Jamaica. It was a bit windy and the water a bit choppy, but what’s that compared to the winter weather back home? We spent the day working on our projects as usual. My project is to determine if two species of sea urchins, Tripneustes and Lytenchinus, have any preference as to what they use as camouflage. We’ve all seen them covering themselves in algae, rocks and shells, and my project is to see if they randomly pick up items or if they selectively choose what they use. I have gone to a couple of seagrass beds in Discovery Bay to tally up the number of urchins I see hiding there. There are many of them that are so covered up that all you see is a pile of algae and pebbles. I have also set up a lab experiment where both species are put into tanks and presented with things to cover themselves with. So far it seems that Lytenchinus really doesn’t want to get eaten, and covers itself with clumps of algae, rocks, shells, and coral. Tripneustes, on the other hand, sometimes cover themselves with things, but sometimes they could care less. "Eat me!" (Though I could hardly imagine trying to eat a big ball of spines…But I’m sure other animals find them quite tasty.)

Only five days until we’re headed home, folks…Until then, stay warm, and we’ll see you soon! Later, mon!

Kara’s research project

Well yesterday was another absolutely beautiful day here in Jamica, evidence by the sunburn on my back.  After a full morning or research and field work, we went to Brownstown for some street shopping, followed a tour of the Green Groto caves, which we learned from our guide have played an important part of Jamaican history.  After that we had a fantabulous dinner at the ULTIMATE Jerk Center, which if you’ve never had jerk chicken you have to try it.  Then we celecbrated another week’s worth of hard work with a night out…don’t anyone tell you teachers can’t dance!

As far as work goes, students are seriously settling into their research projects.  Many of use are doing surveys on the diversity of Jamaica’s coral reefs, examining either coral, fish, or invertebrates.  My project is examining the effects of predation on Brittle Starts on the back reef of Discovery Bay. I’m testing to see whether the bottom substrate effects how fast Brittle Stars are eaten.  I’m doing this by using a sewing pin to tether Brittle Stars to on foot of fishing line, then trying the other end to a wire pushed into the reef bottom.  I’m examining predation differences between different bottom types and the difference between night and daytime.  So I’m putting one group of six stars out in the morning: Two on sandy bottom, two in seagrass meadows and two on rocky surfaces, and then again six at night.  I return later in the day or the next morning to see who’s been eaten or lost any legs.  Hopefully I can produce some valid results and find differences among sites!  But even if I can’t prove anything, this will be a valuble experience in teaching me how to do field work, something I’ve never done before.  I think I can say the same for most of the other students as well.  I can’t believe we’ve been here for two weeks already, and this last one is gonna fly by.  Pretty soon we’ll be exchanging our bathing suits for winter coats (groan), and heading back to Stony Brook for MORE classes (another groan), but at least we’ll have Jamaican tans!

Nicole’s blog

I have officially done my first scuba diving ‘post-certification’ as of yesterday, and since then, I have already logged three dives. It’s absolutely an amazing feeling to be underwater and swimming amongst schools of fish. I’m so glad I chose to get certified here because the instructor, Anthony, is great at making you feel totally comfortable while diving. The snorkeling is cool too but actual diving is a whole other experience. It’s a different environment and full of different species.

This week I began my research project which is to investigate the territorial behavior exhibited by herbivorous damsel fish on the Jamaican coral reefs. These fish maintain a territory which consists of algae which they “farm” or maintain by trimming the desirable species and removing those they do not want. These fish also fend of other herbivorous fish from their “farms” and remove debris. These fish play an important role in maintaining the health of coral reefs as algae can often overgrow the reefs and kill them. My research plan is observe the interaction of these fish with other fish, noting the food choices of fish which they encounter (herbivore vs carnivore). I will also be introducing herbivorous invertebrates into their farms to note their behavior and determine the radius of the farms. Let the fun begin!

Field Trip 1/10/2006

After 2 weeks of lecture and taking enough notes to fill a 100 page notebook we had our comprehensive exam. It was an exam that contained 2 types of questions. The first type of question was general exam fare asking us to define a term or describe a theory. The second type of question involved having a fishbowl in front of us and then asked us to identify the phylum or class that the animal belonged to or to describe what affect the animal had on the environment. The questions were diverse starting from the individual organism and branching out to include questions on issues that changed ecosystems. It was challenging but fair.

The highlight of the day was going out to town to Ocho Rios which I believe is in St. Ann’s Parish. If anyone has ever been to the famous Sandals Ocho Rios resort, we passed by there and we also passed by the RIU resort which is an upscale Spanish resort also on our way to Dunn’s River Falls.

As I understood the tour bus company that took us to Dunn’s River we were all to have a guided tour hiking up the falls. They said that we were to wear shoes to go up the falls in, no flip-flops, just sturdy shoes or sneakers. I figured we were going to do some serious treks on some narrow trails.

We got to Dunns river, met our tour guide "Noel" who instructed us that we couldn’t bring personal items or handbags as we will get wet. People were holding towels. We were told that they would do us no good. At the time I thought that maybe the trail would take us "under" the fall. You know how sometimes you see a vacation brochure with two adventurous types walking under a fall. I thought that is what he meant.

They lead our entire group to the entrance of the bottom of the falls where we will walk up.  It is unlike anything I have seen before. The fall empties directly into the ocean. Its beautiful- only 25 feet of sand separated the falling water from the breaking waves.

We were instucted to hold the hand of our neighbor and to proceed to walk forward up the falls. I looked for this trail we were supposed to hike and then it hit me. There is NO TRAIL we have to LITERALLY- WALK UP THE FALLS.

It was unbelievable, no railings, no steps, no stairs, no elevator. Just you, your neighbor, and the poor guy in front of me holding my hand and hauling my 5 foot 11 inch frame behind him as millions of gallons of fresh water course down on you like the Great Flood!

It was UNBELIEVABLE and AWESOME, nowhere in America am I aware of an adventure like this. We actually climbed UP the falls. Amidst the rushing eddies and great torrents of water our hands and feet searched for purchase. Surprisingly the rock face of the falls provided good traction. There were about 100 or so people with their guides climbing the same fall. The Imagination and the Carnival Cruise Line were docked and we climbed the falls with people of every nationality. I felt like I was in Times Square or Broadway Ave in NYC. The massive amounts of people that Dunn’s River Falls accommodates probably accounts for the fact that no algae grow for long to cover the rocks.

The view from the falls at distinct locations where the fall leveled off were amazing. It was like a picture from a postcard. Absolutely Beautiful! It replaced my image of paradise.

Oh yeah, let me mention at this point WE ARE ALL FINE! Nobody got hurt doing this and there were retirees off the cruise ship that participated, so it was fun for all ages! WE ALL HAD A GREAT TIME!

After Dunn’s River Falls we all went out to eat at a local seafood restaurant. The restaurant was very nice, casual too. It had poinsettia plants on the tables, tablecloths and cloth napkins; ambient lighting glowed from cylindrical hanging lamps. This set the mood for some very good eats. The menu had whole Jerked Fish (head and all), Fried Conch, and Escovitched Fish with Bammy (a local side dish) and a whole lot of other seafood delights. I paid 1180.30J for the meal- about $20 American- a very cheap price for a seafood restaurant.

Afterwards we returned back to the Discovery Bay Marine Lab. On Wednesday we have our final proposals due for our research project. We will fill you in on that soon.

Just to let all our families and friends know. – Love you and miss you. Oh yeah, and its about 85 degrees and sunny in Jamaica, Yah Mon!

Report from the Dean’s visit to Discovery Bay

My two day visit comes to an end tomorrow morning as I head to Montego Airport for my flight back to NY.  It was a great pleasure to witness the brimming enthusiasm of the students as they described the many organisms they had photographed, collected and learned to identify. Despite strong wind and turbid waters, the dive this morning turned up many new sightings of what were now familiar species, together with several unique discoveries. I am impressed with the non-stop energy the students are investing in the class. Chris and Brad are keeping them so busy with captivating lectures and class assignments such as their presentations of photographic and live collections, research proposals, and tomorrow…. the first exam. I did hear a few groans at lunch today when some realized how many pages of notes and Powerpoint slides they had to study after only 1 week of classes. The reward for them after the exam will be a trip to Ochos Rios, a nearby resort town. After my two days here, I leave knowing this class is an educational adventure these students will never forget.

I will be posting a story and some photos when I return to Stony Brook: check out the “MSRC in the News” section of the MSRC webpage within the next few days.


David Conover

Trix are for kids

        After a LONG night, we woke up bright and early to the sounds of howling winds. After an interesting breakfast (which I refuse to describe), Dean Conover gave a very informative 3-hour lecture on reef fish biology. Most students had a quick lunch, since everyone was rushing to wrap up their presentations which were due a couple of hours later. After spending a painstakingly long amount of time in front of a very old and very slow computer, cutting and pasting pictures of fish and the like, Brooke and I eventually gave up and braced ourselves to face the toughest audience: our fellow students. Not surprisingly, everyone’s presentations went smoothly, and some were quite humorous (see: Christophorious Goblorium). After a brief debate regarding the proceedings for the remainder of the day, Ann-Marie, Brooke, and I got suited-up to go in the water. This was a desperate and frenzied attempt to gather as many specimens as possible for our tank presentations. Thankfully, the waves broke on the reef crest, so we were considerably safe, although the current was quite strong. In about 30 minutes, we managed to gather a variety of algae, a couple of sea cucumbers, and sea urchins, memorized all their scientific names, and were back in time for Gobler’s lecture on global warming, which was just plain fabulous! We all had a very quick dinner and then ran into the wet lab for some last minute memorization of our tank contents. When the time came for our actual evaluation, Gobler and Peterson tested each group individually. Of course Gobler and Peterson gave us the third degree, instead of simply asking us to name our specimens, as expected. Alas, their questions were not that bad, so I can say with confidence that we all did quite well. We have another long day planned out tomorrow, and hopefully we will soon be allowed to leave the compound8)