January 11 by Courtney

    Court_ocho_blog_3  Today was a day to let loose and have some fun!! After everyone had worked so hard on their SCUBA certification, showing off skills for identifying common Jamaican algaes, plants and animals, and studying Peterson’s 281 and Gobler’s 276 lecture slides for yesterday’s test (totaling 557 lecture slides that we have seen in the last 4 days!!!), everyone was ready to distress and enjoy the island life. Around 1:15 pm, the class enjoyed a quick talk from Gobler about what to expect when roaming the area Jamaica. We then loaded ourselves into two vans and were off to Duns River Falls and the town of Ocho Rios. You could feel the energy and excitement pulse through the van as the reggae blaired and we were finally stepping outside of the gates of the compound.
Our first stop was Duns River Falls! No one really knew quite what to expect. We entered the park and made our way down to the bottom of the falls. Standing there in the bottom lagoon, you couldn’t help but to have a smile plastered on your face. The smile was uncontrollable!! There in front of you was a beautiful, intimidating waterfall that you can’t wait to start climbing!! You think to yourself, “I can’t believe I’m about to do this!! Who get’s to climb a waterfall in Jamaica?!!….Yeah!! Come on!! Let’s go!! Let’s do this!!”!! Meanwhile, everyone else is thinking the exact same thing!! Everyone is excited and determined!! It was the best feeling in the world!
      Technically you are supposed to have a guide when climbing the falls. In having a guide though, you are forced to climb with a large tourist group and hold hands with one another while climbing up the easiest way possible. Holding hands while climbing anything is probably one of the worst things you could do!! Plus, us being the dedicated, passionate students of the 2007 Tropical Marine Ecology Class from Stony Brook University, we wanted more of a challenge!! Also, this way each student could pick their own route, depending on what they felt up to. At one point, as you can see in the picture, some of us decided to climb a very challenging route, vertical and with the water pounding us down! When climbing this part, you couldn’t open your eyes starting about a quarter of the way up. The water was just too strong! You had to feel along the wall and along the path for foot wholes and hand grips! Everyone that attempted made it successfully and felt very accomplished! We continued up the cascading waterfall and many happy smiles in pictures and a few minor battle scars later, we were all at the top!! Some people wanted to do it again, but it was time to head to Ocho Rios!!
Our first stop in Ocho Rios was a small craft fair. We got the opportunity to purchase some local Jamaican souvenirs. We all experienced the Jamaican business hospitality! Each vendor was very personable and would politely ask you/escort you into their part of the market. They would show you what was special about their store and tell you how they would cut you a special deal! One thing that you will quickly learn is to never pay the asked price. Always bargain. You will most often win and end up paying less. Also, make sure you know your exchange rates!! The vendors will sometimes try to cheat you, knowing you are unfamiliar with the exchange rate. $1 US is equal to 66 Jamaican Dollars. I found myself buying a hand made photo album for $1300, giving the vendor two $500 bills and three $100 bills. I had to keep telling myself its really only $20 US. Its always embarrassingly amusing when you find yourself being the unfamiliar foreigner.
After the craft fair, we were dropped down in the tourist district of Ocho Rios. There were many tourist sorts of shops. We were given around an hour to roam the district, of course staying in our buddy groups! They all took US dollars, but still you found yourself having to bargain with them. The shops gave us yet another opportunity to find any sort of gift or keepsake to remind us of our time here! The shops started to close and the sky began to get dark. We again piled into the vans and were off to dinner!! We ate out for dinner at restaurant called The Ultimate Jerk. The restaurant was delicious, authentic Jamaican food. They had a wide variety of jerked meat and sides like fritters!! Did I mention it was delicious? Dinner was relaxing as we all wound down from a very energetic yet draining day. We all shared our exciting adventures that the day had offered. Everyone was tired after our long day. We returned to the compound to lay our heads on our pillow and rest.

January 10 by Annie

Annie_jan_19th_blog_1 I have not read the blog yet, so I have no idea what has been written. I assume that  you all know about the many early mornings the people getting certified have endured! But, today was our last day of classes as six of us got certified (and four to follow tomorrow).  The morning started with a wonderful gray sky and rain.  We slugged our gear on, dribbled on the boat and got started.  I hate to complain, seeing how we are all in Jamaica, getting dive certified, in waters that are only a few steps from our bed but its been a very long 8 days (or so, honestly I have lost count) and we have been all pretty maxed out.  So, in any case, we had two dives which officially completed our dives, but we still had to pass the test. 

The rest of the day was spent by everyone working on the very beginnings of their projects.  My research partner is Colleen, and we put a lot of thought, work and sweet and finally decided to study sea grass! Actually, I am very excited, it’s just both Colleen and I are Marine Vertebrate Biology majors, and here we on, living on a reef and studying sea grass! So, here is the base for the study; as I am sure you have read, there is a huge source of ground water coming into the part of the bay we are on.  This water brings with it HUGE amounts of nutrients, and what interest us is the nitrogen it carries.  It is thought that this enriched water is taken up by the sea grass, and in turn makes the sea grass a better food source for the lovely fishes that reside here.  So, to make a long story short, we will trying to help support this assumption with the transplanting of sea grass from our side of the bay ( the west side) to the east side of the bay.  We spent the day making our equipment, as did every one else.  I was impressed how focused everyone is, knowing what they wanted to do, and using their imaginations to come up with a solid way of during it, even the pouring rain didn’t damper the days energy. 

Later on, the 10 wanna be divers took the final PADI test, and became actual certified divers (yes, every one passed).  So, it was all worth it! And I can’t wait to take my first dive deeper than 20 feet, which if the weather clears up, will be happening tomorrow morning! So, I love and miss you all, and hope that you are all surviving that New York weather!!!

Jan 10 by Maria

Marias_jan_10th_blog_2 So this is the first time in writing a blog.  First off Jamaica is so awesome, maybe I won’t come back home.  Chris today pointed to me and said “write a blog about your project”, so here it is.  After that hike up the falls and all the running around in Ochio Rios, everyone was pretty tired, so it was almost a blessing that it rained most of the day.

Stephanie (my research partner) and I met up to start really working on our project about 10:30.  We are so excited about this project. There are some hurdles in our way but we are confident that we can pull it off, and Brad and Chris are showing much support that is great.  We are planning on studying Tripneustes ventricosus, a sea urchin.  We are planning on taking the Tripneustes, tagging them, setting them into different locations and then tracking their daily movement, to determine their movement rate and if they are territorial.  We plan on moving them to six different sites: a control site, a barren sand area, on a reef, in a grass bed devoid of Tripneustes, on a different grass bed filled with Tripneustes, on a coral structure, and next to the Diademas.  The Tripneustes seem to show a liking to sea grass beds, but there are some sea grass beds with many and some that are devoid of them.  Thus far, we are having a lot of problems trying to determine how to set the tags onto them, because those tricky Tripneustes seem to have a liking for wiggling themselves free from anything we set on them. We need to find a way to record where each of the 30 Tripneustes were, so we can determine if they are territorial.
We were going to use today to work on the bulk of our project and perhaps get the load out into the water, but we had problems finding the Tripneustes, finding the right material, and dodging the rain, so we plan on working on everything tomorrow.  We met with Chris who seemed to have high hopes for our project, and gave us some really good revision ideas, so by tomorrow maybe we might get some good sunshine and everything in the water. 

The good news is that I have seen a lot of cool stuff in the water, aside from every other day, I saw juvenile squirrelfish, a sting ray that was probably about 3 feet long (maybe 4), an octopus hiding inside a cinder block, and a barracuda that looked more adult than juvenile. 

So this is Maria saying “get the bad ju-ju off this island mon!”

January 7 by Alex

Location-Discovery Bay Marine Lab, Jamaica

Mission – Explore the diverse undersea world

We started this day bright and early. The small breakfast with the professors before we headed out on our journey helped fuel Mike and I. Our goal of the day was to take as many photographs as we could, and to bring back as many organisms as we could to our aquarium that we maintained in the wet lab. We succeeded in both. Although we both came back very tired, for what we caught today and what we saw was definitely worth the effort we put in. The organisms that excited us the most were the different eels. A total of three were observed, two of them identified, and one of them captured. The picture included here is of the Chain Moray Eel, which we found over the reef crest of Discovery Bay a few hundred feet from shore, hiding in the coral.


The captured eel was a Goldspotted Eel, which was pointed out by a fellow classmate, Jen, and later captured by Mike and I. This added to the richness of our aquarium, not that it wasn’t great before the eel that is. Now, the rest of the day was quite different, yet still interesting, as we uploaded the pictures to our laptops, and went through some books to identify the different types of coral, algae, fish, anemones, grasses, etc. The day came to a close after we handed in our powerpoint presentations and had a practical exam on our aquariums. After a hard day’s work, we come back to our rooms and prepare for the next day filled with studying, exams and diving. Stay tuned for more!


January 7 by Riki

January 7, 2007

“Rio Bueno!”


Sometimes it is a pain to wake up at 6am and get ready to do your school work. But not here in JAMAICA. The dive-site we went this morning (at 7 am) called Rio Bueno was AMAZING. The site had a huge coral reef wall that started about in the depth of 25 ft and dropped down straight to 120ft. The visibility was awesome, we could see the bottom of the wall from the top. And most importantly there were no current like yesterday’s dive.  Do not forget the diversity of life at the wall. There were schools of blue chromis, a beautiful blue fish following us all time, lots of corals, sponges, algae, and there were damselfish in every hole we could find trying scare us away by poking us.  I’m having a life like a dream. Have you ever imagined going scuba before your breakfast? I was feeling so sorry for the people in NY thinking of cold weather… but I heard you guys have a nice weather, too right? Enjoy!
Everything is going well here in Jamaica, like I enjoy diving 3 times a day, everybody is enjoying their stay in Jamaica. Maybe we’re having too much fun…


January 5 by Heather

January 5, 2007

Blog_105_picture_2 This morning was not the greatest of dive days. The group assembled at the bright and early hour of 7AM to go to the off-shore reef called Runaway Bay. After a few cases of seasickness (myself included) en route, we dropped anchor and began our snorkeling and diving. After about being pelted by the waves and strong current, we decided to call off the dive.  You can’t win them all.
After returning to the dock, we gathered for breakfast and decided that our 11AM lecture would be cancelled, so we could try diving another site, Columbus Park. All 10 scuba divers went.  We enjoyed an approximate 35 minute dive, seeing damselfish, squirrelfish, a moon jellyfish, and a sting ray! We saw a lot of interesting interactions on the reef between the fish and coral. Ricky even got a video of a damselfish attacking his camera, and I got a nosebleed (yes, I was excited because it was green and so cool looking!).

Afternoon and evening lectures went alright, but we had no late evening one, so we could work on our collection tanks and powerpoint presentations tonight. We’re all doing fine, healthy and safe, besides a few scratches and a few cases of seasickness. Jamaica’s a blast and I think we’ll all be talking about this trip for a long time!


January 4 by Jen

      Jan_04_am_112_2 The day began with the beginner divers rising early enough to make it, all suited up, into the water by 7:00am.  A storm was off on the horizon steaming up a beautiful bluish grey, but it was no concern because it was heading away to the west.  The water greeted us with rippled glass calmness and a brilliant light azule only found in the tropics, that is, until the divers all jumped into the tepid bathwater creating their own private dust storm. While they waited for each other they may have been lucky enough to have the damselfish that lives by the jetty wall, desperately attempting to protect its domain, attack their wetsuit. I know all of this because I was beginning my snorkel into the lagoon known as Discovery Bay. 

The mornings here are the calmest water and therefore the easiest to maneuver into the more difficult places.  It also is the time when many of the creatures have not been scared away by the 30 some odd people that get to snorkel around in these waters.  I haven’t quite reached the point when I can identify all of the species, but suffice to say packs of small fish congregate early in the morning, the odd bigger creature still lingers after snoozing in the safer lagoon waters,  the shyer critters are still around feeding and the waters are clear enough to see it all.  Tomorrow we will all be up before 7:00am to experience the morning dive/snorkel and capture glimpses of some of the most extraordinary things people can see.  Jan_04_am_095_1

Most of my family tells me that I’m on vacation here, but we’ve had three lectures today and three   yesterday and will have another three tomorrow.  After all of that we will have a scavenger hunt exam where we’ll need to know the scientific names of species AND be able to find them.  Plus complete a project before the time is out.  However I can’t think of a better place to learn so much and we’re served excellent food as well. Excuse me now because I’m about to go out for the night dive where the corals are feeding, the bioluminescence are out shining and there’s a whole new list of species to see.   


January 3 by Marina


A beautiful day in Jamaica; temperature was about 85 degrees at noon, windy. This is our second day on the island. Some of us worked our way to the kitchen at around 7 am and looked pretty beat. 07:30 Meet with Anthony, the Dive Instructor, to sign release forms and to hear about the formalities of diving and snorkeling.

08:00 Breakfast: bacon, eggs, papaya, bananas, and orange or tropical juice (not from concentrate).

09:00 Brief intro lecture on the dangers of the reef; an intro of what to stay away from – what bites, stings, or hurts.

09:30 Those who are scuba certified went on their checkout dive. Those who were planning to get certified or who planned to snorkel (myself included) snorkeled.

11:45 Lecture: Coral Reef Origins by Chris Gobler.

13:00 Lunch: doughie rolls (quite tasty), salad, ackee and saltfish, and banana.

14:00 Those who planned to get certified start their training while the rest of the group (that’s me) snorkeled the reef. Check out my first underwater photo below.

16:30 Lecture By Brad Peterson: Coral Reef Productivity. We learned about the ecology and structure of coral communities.

18:00 Dinner: Potatoes, beans with chicken and vegetables, carrots and some sort of green vegetable.

20:00 Evening lecture with Chris Gobler: Coral Reef Biology and Physiology – We learned about the structure of corals and the interactions between/within coral species.

21:30 Mariana and I helped Chris with an experiment that he has been working on. It involved growing marine algae at different nutrient concentrations. Pretty interesting stuff! We have been busy and tired. You try doing two dives a day!! O yeah- and plus three lectures…but hey, I’m in Jamaica.

This is Marina, signing off.

We made it

We’ve all arrived safe and sound at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab in Jamaica. The day came off without a hitch. We’re all pretty hungry (AA didn’t serve a meal) and tired (did anyone else get up at 3am?), but the blue water and warm breezes are enough to lift the spirits of all. I hope the students get a good night’s rest, as I have three lectures and two field trips planned for tomorrow.


More soon…