Final day – Colleen

ColleenOur last day in Jamaica!!  We started with the last early morning dive (6:30 AM) at the dock.  It was a little windy on the morning, which made for an interesting boat ride over to Rio Bueno, and I think most of us were thoroughly soaked before even hitting the water.  I did not get to dive, but was told I missed a really great dive.  Yeah sea turtles and rays!!  The rest of the afternoon was spent gathering the last bits of data and preparing our final presentations.  It was nice to see how the results of our hard work on the project are turning out the way we wanted.  In the evening each group gave their presentation, and it was impressive the way everyone pulled their projects together to make them work, even with the block of bad weather we had.
     Our last supper was probably one of the best.  We had BBQ chicken, ribs, and of course rice and peas!!!!  We spent our last night figuring out drink tab finances, packing, and playing volleyball.  I think everyone is feeling both depressed to be leaving the beautiful weather, but also happy to be heading home to warm showers and Taco Bell.  Oh, and of course school does start on Monday so we are all eagerly anticipating our trip back to NY.
     All in all, this class was amazing!! We got to go diving, sightseeing, dancing, and best of all we got to learn about tropical coral reefs.  I am glad I got to know some of the other students that I have seen around campus, but never really gotten the chance to talk to before.  I know I will be seeing some of them a whole lot more – Yeah Buccaneers!!!!

January 18- Gina

Gina_action_shot So we made it through all of 17 days!!! Well the night isn’t over. I do not look forward to the trip home, but I do have a most wonderful little girl waiting to press her lips against my face and that’s what keeps me going. This trip has been eventful, with the first part actually being very similar to a classroom setting, only in a tropical world and second half relaxed as we do our own field study projects. Today was havoc though, having everyone attempting to complete their reports and invading the teachers for help.  Our final dive trip was incredible and it consisted of going to a depth of about 50 feet. A green sea turtle was cruising on by as well as an eagle-spotted stingray. Riki was so awesome and held my hand to assure me that everything would be ok. I am a beginner diver and not entirely relaxed, but rather very stiff in the underwater world. I think of all that could go wrong and that I will forget what to do. Yesterday was a lovely day at the gardens. I felt at home with the trees. Not the best to hug, but definitely still awesome. The smell of the air filled with tropical flowers was so refreshing.  The trail led to a natural pool where we swung from a vine into the pool. I guess I had high expectations, because it was just ok. When we went to Dunns River falls, it was absolute thrills climbing up rocks as water is rushing towards you.  The bioluminescent bay was definitely trippy.  Just put your hand in the water and thousands of tiny particles dance on your skin. My bathing suit was all sorts sparkly for the next hour when I touched it.

This is Gina signing off.

Kerri’s Blog

Kerris_blog_pic Hi all!  It is almost time to go home and that means back to the cold so we are all trying to enjoy what is left of the warmth here in Jamaica.  Today we all woke up early to fit in as much work on our research projects as possible before heading out for an exciting evening.  First we hiked up to a waterfall and then spent some time jumping into a pool from the rocks and learning about the variety of beautiful plants there were in the park there.  Than we were off to dinner at glistening waters where we had a wonderful dinner and then went on a boat ride which gave us the opportunity to swim in the bioluminescent algae.  For those of you who don’t know, this means that there are micro-organisms in the water that glow when disturbed.  It was so cool to swim around in the water and see the glowing trail behind you.  Now it is back to business though as our final presentations are tomorrow night and our final papers are due Friday morning so there is a great deal of work to be done.  My partner Anna and I have changed our experiment completely due to the weather.  We are now studying the predation of snails at different depths in different locations in the bay.  So far only a few of our snails have been preyed upon and some have been replaced by hermit crabs which it quite interesting.  We will finish collecting data tomorrow and then begin analysis so you will have to ask us about it when the project is over.  All in all we are having a wonderful time in Jamaica and we are enjoying the weather even if it is a little bit rainy.  (Anything in better than the weather in New York right now.)  Hope you are all staying warm, we sure are!  See you all soon. 

Much love, Kerri

Stephs blog

Steph_blog_pic  Jamaica, the beautiful tropical island where everyone wants to go for that perfect getaway vacation. In my opinion, it is definitely worth every minute coming here and everyone should experience the beauty of this island!!! If you have the opportunity to take this class, go for it mon! The class is very interesting and the material that you learn here will be beneficial for you no matter what career path you choose to explore. Becoming certified as a SCUBA diver is one of the coolest things I’ve done and now I can spend even more time with my head under the water. We also got some great field work experience where we could set up our own experiment and learn efficient data collecting techniques. My partner Maria and I decided we were both interested in the common sea urchin, the Tripneustes ventricosus. Unfortunately our initial idea for tracking the urchins and seeing if they were territorial was a complete failure due to unfavorable weather conditions, strong currents, and limited visibility. So we modified our plans to focus on the urchin’s rate of movement in different marine environments. We gathered five tripneustes and put them in a tank in the wet lab and measured the distance they moved every fifteen minutes. We did this for three hours during the day and two hours later on during the night. We expected the urchins to move more at night but to our surprise their movement was a lot greater during the day. The next day did the same experiment but we added some complexity by putting rocks on one end, a simulated grass bed on the other and leaving the center bare. We hypothesized that the Tripneustes would go for the grass bed (since that is where they are most often found out in the bay) but they surprised us again by heading for the rocks and planting themselves there. For reasons we can’t fathom, one urchin flipped onto his back within the first 15minutes during every trial and refused to flip himself back over. We were right though in our guess that they urchins would move less when more complexity was added. On Monday we finally had a day that was nice enough to do some field work. We tethered 10 Tripneustes and put them in two sites, a sea grass bed and an area of barren sand. We measured how far they moved on an hourly basis for five hours. Well, ok roughly five hours. When we went out to measure for the third hour we found out the hard way that our little Tripneuste patch was surrounded by jelly fish. After two stings to my bare leg and one sting on Maria’s bare hand, we concluded it was best to abort and flee from the army of superiorly armed jellies. We decided it was best to allow them time to move from the area because we had some good data anyway and we figured waiting an hour or so wouldn’t be devastating (whereas going out their might have been bad for our health). I can honestly saw that was the only bad experience I had on the reef (and even then it’s not too bad because now I have a story to tell). Other than that I’ve been in awe at all the aquatic life that is here and have seen several stingrays (including a spotted eagle ray that we caught on video!!), a plethora of brightly colored fish, a couple of large moon jellyfish, and one octopus that was squished up in a cinder block. Bottom line, Jamaica is AWESOME!!! Cool runnings mon!

January 16 by Paul

Paul_blog_pic Paul’s Blog
Jan 16

Hello everyone, we have had a great past couple of days in terms of diving conditions.  Yesterday I had my first successful dive since being certified and I must say it was amazing (the dive at “Columbus Park” two days ago was far from successful or amazing).  We went to a dive location called “Dairy Bull” and we hit a max dept of around 60 feet where we saw some amazing fish, inverts and sea plants, unfortunately I was running low on air and had to surface.  Today was even better (luckily I got a larger tank this time); we went to “The Canyons” in Runaway Bay, which is basically exactly what it sounds like, canyons of corals.  Diving down into the canyon, if you looked to the left or right, you saw these amazing corals and sponges (as well as the many creatures that live in them), looking down however was a different story, all you could see is darkness, I was told that the canyon bottom probably goes way beyond 100 feet.  Once we got out of the canyons we came upon this sand bed where concrete benches were set up around a fountain.  It looked like an underwater garden, it was really exciting to sit on those benches and have pictures taken (hopefully they came out nicely).  Later on in the day we went to “Pear Tree Bottom” and took some wicked photos, its to feel comfortable during every dive (I even took a little nap, as seen in the picture below).  It sounds like diving just gets better and better everyday because I heard that tomorrow we most likely will attempt a wreck dive in Runaway Bay where 3 planes and 1 ship have sunk.  I believe that this dive will be the best yet, and hopefully I can get some great pictures.  Other then these recreational dives and awesome competitive volleyball games, we have been up to much research.  My project is on the food preference of the sea urchin Diadema.  My partner and I have three experiments set up.  So far the results look pretty consistent for the first experiment, and we are almost done with the second and third experiment.  Right now we are just waiting for the results to pour in so that we can finish our project, in which case we are most likely having a bonfire tonight (weather and wood permitting), which shall be sweet.  Other then that there is not much left to say, see you all when I get back to New York.

-Paul “Scuba Steve” Sypien

Jan 15 by Veronica and Marianna

Veronicamarianna_blog_picture_jan_15 Monday, January 15, 2007 Blog: Veronica and Marianna

Today was the first day with good weather in a while, and everyone took advantage of that to get their projects going full throttle. We didn’t reap too much benefit from that since ours has been in the lab, though at one point the weather did mess up a valve that allows running seawater into the wet lab. So we spent that morning bailing water in two-gallon buckets from the ocean into our tanks every five minutes; luckily that was fixed quickly.

Our project is on the Dusky Damselfish and its learning capabilities in novel environments. For the past few days we’ve been running our eight fish (courtesy of Dalton’s master damselfish-catching abilities) in our T-maze (built from scratch—or rather, chicken wire and duct tape). There’s a hole in the right side of the maze, which is the exit that the fish have to find. The times for the fish to find the exit has decreased from roughly two and a half minutes to an average of about ten seconds over 12 trials; now they pretty much head straight for the exit when we lift the gate.

This is the first independent research project that either of us has done, so it’s been both hectic and rewarding at the same time. We’ve been really anxious about how the fish would react to our “training,” and they give us a hard time sometimes, like when they absolutely refuse to return to their tanks, or at other times to move at all. But overall, they’re pretty smart fish (they’re getting harder and harder to catch, and keep finding new ways to escape), and have made us proud parents. (Rest in peace, Holy, Moly, Mackerel and Bob. And Momma Dukes. We swear we didn’t know there was chlorine in that tank! Anyway, beware the tank of death, whose previous victims were Paul and Riki’s entire tank collection.) We’ll be back in New York in a few days, we’ll miss the nice weather here (except of course the past week or so of storm and clouds) and the new friends we’ve made, but not the mosquitoes. Evil mosquitoes.
–Veronica and Marianna

Liam and Amber

Amber Dear Buccaneers:

Our project concerns the affect of groundwater seeps on the surrounding benthic sessile community. Today was the first day we were able to get successful results in the field. The weather has not permitted many of us from acquiring substantial field data, however the persistent wind has not hampered our abilities to tan it up, YEAH TAN!!! Tomorrow, bright and early, we will be diving in the field to measure the species diversity along our transects. Hopefully we won’t have the buoyancy issues we faced today carrying all of our weighted research gear, and there was a lot of gear. Now that our gear is down and our area of interest has been staked with the transects, we have begun and will continue to take data measurements. Our goal is to see how the changes in salinity are affecting the local organisms of that area compared to that of the local organisms of a similar site without the freshwater input. Over the next couple of days we will be placing quadrats in our study sites. A picture will be taken of the contents within the quadrats, against a known scale, to later calculate the species diversity. Based on our general observations of the area, we do expect to see some difference. 
Hi Mom and Dad!

Liam and Amber

Jan 14 by Amanda and Michael

Am1 Rain sucks…especially when your research project requires field work.  However, it is because of rain and other freshwater sources that we have chosen to study its effects on marine life in the bay.  We are now on day 5 of torrential downpour and it only seems fitting for our research objective.  Our agenda is to study the effects of hypotonicity on osmoconformers and osmoregulators.  The species we will test are the fireworm and the sea urchin respectively.  Currently, we have significant data on the urchin, however, due to inclement weather conditions, we have been unable to catch a single fireworm…and the deadline is approaching.  So far, our data has stayed consistent with our hypothesis concerning the urchin, which is a sign that things are going well.  We have recorded data in a sufficient manner and it has not given us much trouble  (although we dropped one of the urchins on the way to the scale and it split in half).  But all in all, things are working out fine.  We guess the big task ahead of us will be to capture 20 fireworms in heavy wave action and rain.  Once we can accomplish that feat, it should be smooth sailing.Am2

       Amanda & Michael

January 12 by Anna

January 12, 2007


Jamaica could not be a more ideal place to live, work and breathe coral reefs… except of course when you can’t see the coral.  Today was another windy day once again stirring up the sediment and causing limited visibility and highly turbulent wave action.  On the bright side though, it only rained about two times each being a quick shower with limited cloud cover.  Some of my fellow classmates and I even got to see the end of a rainbow while I helped to prep them for a dive at a site called Columbus Park.  We searched with all our might for that pot of gold, but alas, it must have been at the bottom of the bay… 🙂

For our research project, Kerri and I are studying the relative effectiveness of varying densities of seagrass nurseries by quantifying the diversity and abundance of juvenile finfish within the beds. In other words, we need to count the number of species and individual juveniles along an 8 meter transect at several sites here in Discovery Bay, and to do so, we need clear visibility and minimal turbulence.  Therefore, we are stymied for now by this weather but are quite hopeful everything calms down by the end of tomorrow or at least by Sunday.  We did however lay down one of our transects near the boat landing at the Marine Lab facility and attempted to calculate the density of seagrass along the line.  Despite being tossed by the water and headbutting each other several times we were successful!  We also attempted to lay another transect in our second location with the help of Amber, but had to abort the mission after realizing the waves were tossing us around too much.  Tomorrow is a new day and we are excited to see what lies ahead!

Time has flown by here, and it’s hard to believe that only two weeks ago, I was home in Pennsylvania enjoying the holidays.  I hope everyone is doing well back home, and I can’t wait to see your smiling faces again!  Send us some good weather wishes!  Good night!

~Anna 🙂

January 11 by Joyce

Joyce_blog_pic January 11, 2007
      Today was another day of inclement weather. The winds were strong and it rained intermittently. I walked to breakfast and found a couple of friends chatting about their plans for the day. Having filled myself with French toast and pineapple, I made plans to do a test run of our research equipment in the bay.
      After making some last minute adjustments, we grabbed our fluorescent yellow and orange equipment and snorkel gear. We jumped off the dock to find that we could not see a thing. The winds were stirring up the sandy bottoms and I could not see my hands. Nevertheless, the test run was a success even in the worst condition possible. I am hoping that we will be able to start collecting data tomorrow but, I am more anxious to dive. Diving in a constantly changing environment is a new experience every time. The different colors and shapes of the animals that inhabit the reefs take me away from the hard, gray, drabness of life on land. Diving people are happy people!
Our Research Project
      Jen, Riki, and I decided to conduct a survey of corals, algae, and sponges, as our final research project. We chose to do it because we wanted to maximize the times that we could dive, while being productive. We designed a transferable grid and quadrat system creating a 9m by 9m grid to position at two depths of a reef location. We plan to take pictures and later identify the coral species in the lab. Algae and sponge cover will be measured by the Bran-Blanquet method underwater by the other two divers. Fortunately, according to recent surveys, the Jamaican coral reefs are making a come back after strenuous events in the past two decades. We hope to be overwhelmed by the diversity of coral species as we dive throughout the Northwestern coast of Jamaica.

Whatever. Wherever. Whenever.