19 January – Science versus suntans


It was with mixed feelings that MAR388 saw another January in Jamaica come to an end. Reflecting on the flight back to NY, I was reminded of how interesting it is to see a group of virtual strangers live, work and eat together and meld into more than a collection of students. Each year is as different and unique as the students who participate. Sitting on the plane and listening to the words of encouragement and celebration as different members of our class won the in-flight trivia game, you realize that some of these friendships will last far beyond the mere 17 days that we were together. Teaching travel courses such as Tropical Marine Ecology are both a rewarding and exhausting experience. As a faculty member, you spend all of your time with the students and interact with them in ways that are not possible in other situations. Not all faculty members succeed in a course like this and once again I felt privileged to have had such an excellent co-instructor as Joe (a.k.a. Simon). Joe is everything that I am not (organized, pleasant in the morning and realistic). [Ed: Oh stop, you’re going to make me cry… It’s a good team effort as Brad is patient, understanding, and super-excited about everything in the water.]

As I considered this year’s class, it was difficult for me to tease apart whether it was the size of the class this year, which was the smallest that we had ever brought to Jamaica, or that having done this course for three previous years makes us better at doing it. Whichever it was, MAR388 2009 was one of the best classes that we have had. This was not only because they worked together so well, but also the final products of their research were exceptional. The primary objective of this course is to experience research. That means much more than simply doing an experiment. It’s formulating a question, thinking of how you might approach that question, designing an experiment, failing…, thinking of how you might improve the flawed design, staying up late for that data point or going out in the rain. Hunting the elusive bald eyed goby or improving your fisherman’s slip knot so you don’t lose that urchin. Seeing the difficulty in doing all that you wanted to do. Preparing a presentation that uses your data to make a point or convince an audience. For some, it basically included the discipline to drop bad habits. [Ed: Have somebody from the class explain what that last sentence means.] Joe and I were so proud of the performances of the groups that we are going to post the final presentations on the blog for all of you to see. It is our hope that this motley crew of biology, marine science, pre-med and linguistic students will take away from their Jamaica experience something much more lasting than their suntans.
— Brad [Ed: and Joe]

18 January – Time to Head Back North

Amber Blog Pic

First let me start off by introducing myself since I have been woefully left out of most of the blogs and photos (thanks Cassie, who went room by room talking about everyone but me, not that I’m bitter). My name is Amber, or sometimes referred to as Waves of Grain (a clever play on America the Beautiful lyrics), and I am the graduate student extraordinaire and redheaded stepchild of this trip; I am neither one of the undergraduate students nor a professor. I simply came here to begin my thesis project, which required me to dive twice a day, everyday, in the crystal clear waters of Jamaica’s north shore (it’s hard work, but somebody had to do it). For those who are interested, I was putting out settlement plates (terra cotta tiles) underwater to determine if coastal development affects sponge recruitment. My team (Joe, Brad, and Alan) and I put these plates out via a pneumatic drill converted to work underwater off of a scuba tank, which was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done underwater thus far. We also tagged and measured 180 sponges so that I can track their growth over the next 2 years (yes, I will be returning to Jamaica, every six months).

Now for those who are not interested in what I am doing, I will recap some of the highlights of our last night and day in Jamaica. Last night after dinner we (well really Tex) decided to have a bonfire at the end of the jetty, and true to the saying “build it and they will come” eventually the entire group was settled around the campfire, reminiscing, telling ghost stories, and pretending that reality was not just a day away. We went around the circle each telling what our favorite part of the trip was, for many it was Ocho Rios, others The Ultimate Jerk.

Today, as we all pack up our belongings and finish cleaning the wet lab (after Simon Cowell ruined our final game of Catch phrase), we are all sad to go, dreading the snow, and remembering that, despite spending the last two weeks basking in the sun in shorts and sandals, it is in fact winter in New York. I just want to say to everyone, that I had a great time, and I hope that it was even more memorable for the 14 of you. As we all go back to our respective realities, for better or worse, remember this one piece of advice I leave to you all…[Ed: Amber’s writing was really blurry here but I’m pretty sure her advice was to study hard and do well in your classes this upcoming semester.]

— Amber
[Ed: We’ll have one final blog post from Professor Peterson once we’re all back in the states.]

16 January


I was supposed to start my day twenty minutes earlier than the 7:20AM that it did start. Last night Joe picked me out to wake up before breakfast, find Anthony (which always proved to be impossible) to ask when the Rio Bueno dive was going to be this morning, then wake everyone and tell them. Apparently the logic was that since I have to wake up at 6:30AM for morning swim practice back at Stony Brook, I am “trained” for waking up early; psh yeah… ok haha. I wanted to take advantage this “sleeping in” until 7:30 that I’ve been getting as much as possible. Carrie generously offered to keep a look out for Anthony in the morning seeing as she and Allison had to be up at 6:00AM for their project and this way I got a little extra sleep. Have I mentioned Carrie is the best!

I rolled out of bed to discover French toast for breakfast. It’s my favorite breakfast here. I also was informed that the Rio Bueno dive was at 8:00AM so I quickly ate my fill at breakfast while listening to one of Brad’s… lets call them interesting… stories. Kristin and I headed down to the dock to get our gear ready. Once all eight divers (Joe, Brad, Amber, Alan, Carrie, Raphey, Kristin and I) and two snorkelers (Alison and Josh) were on the Scomber, Anthony whisked us away to the dive site, Rio Bueno, complete with a stop about halfway so that Joe could get pictured of this little fishing boat… he said something about it looking English or something… I thought it just looked like a canoe. [Ed: I said the boat (a panga) looked like a “New England fishing boat” because it had two poles sticking out amidship on each side that looked like the outriggers draggers and trawlers use to stay right-side-up in the water.]

Rio Bueno is my favorite dive site because of the drop off of the reef that goes down 100+ feet below the surface. We only go down 60 feet, but as Brad says, it’s hard to resist the deep calling your name. The best part of diving for me is looking out in all directions and seeing the reef disappear into a soft blue. Kristin likes diving so much because she loves being a part of everything under the water, not just looking at it on the Discover Channel. Today, while at 60 feet, Anthony and Amber started yelling and making a lot of noise. At first I thought it was because I had ventured down too deep, but when I checked my gage I was only at 55 feet. It turns out there was a huge stingray that passed by below us. I must admit I was a little upset at having missed it because I was busy taking pictures of everyone. It also turned out that Brad saw a turtle that he went chasing after! My jealousy rose a little. Allison and Josh said there wasn’t much to see snorkeling but they turned the trip into a game of breaking the air bubbles before they could reach the surface and EXPLODE!!!

Everyone met back on the boat where Amber and Brad treated us to some tunes via their voices along with “dance moves” from Brad. Anthony, then, brought us back to Discovery Bay. The boat trips can get pretty exciting once the wind has picked up and we go flying over waves. Plus, I feel like you have so much to look at. There are two great views, one of the mountains rising out of the ocean to form the island of Jamaica, and the second is of the sea where you can catch glimpses of flying fish if you’re lucky. Today they were coming right out from the waves of the boat.

The divers and snorkelers got back and had a very filling lunch of beef patties. Then, Kristin and I put together the data from the past weeks experiments while laying out in the sun with Carrie.
Tonight we had the treat of going off the compound for dinner at a great outdoor restaurant (and I do use that term loosely) called The Ultimate Jerk. I ordered the best grilled chicken I’ve had here with French fries which was amazing. The rice was also a big hit judging from everyone’s plates.
After dinner there was dancing and singing and tons of craziness. It was the best night of all. Complete with Brad and Joe dancing together [Ed: We were dancing beside each other, not together.] and Joe swing dancing with Anna. He could really hold his own. On the bus back to DBML there was serenading by Brad to Joe along with, what I guess you could call singing, and may be construed as screaming on the well known party bus! And of course, the party didn’t stop there. What would the greatest night of all be without night volleyball… with, you guessed it, more singing!
I hope we’re all ready for our final presentations tomorrow afternoon. Wish us luck!
~ Lisa


15 January – Cranbrooke Botanical Gardens


My Thursday morning started out bright and early at 7:00am when I met up with my research partner, Josh, in the wet lab to record data on our brittle star experiment. Today was the first day we started testing the removal of red wavelength light in our black test tank by dying the water red with food dye. Yet I was still a bit shocked to see the black test tank that we designed to be fill with dark red water as if something has been murdered inside our tank overnight. Despite that horrific thought, I enjoyed my breakfast of cheese omelets with tasty papaya in the wet lab just like any usual lab day [Note: Not the best place to eat breakfast, but work comes first.]

For lunch, we were all really excited to be served with beef lasagna except for Raphey, who filled up his plate with the usual veggie and fruits mixed in with the cold fried fish that we had for dinner last night. Then we were all off to our trip to Cranbrooke garden, which is a botanical garden that encompasses some hiking and swimming. None of us truly have a good idea what Cranbrook garden would look like or what we will see and do. In my mind, I was thinking that it might be something similar to the Brooklyn botanical garden. Much to my surprise, we arrive at Cranbrook passing by cows and horses. Then we had to get out of the van and start walking through aisles of palm trees, which leads into a hut usually reserve for weddings. Past the hut is the main entrance to Cranbrooke garden, which much to my surprise looks nothing like a garden and more like a tropical rainforest. We passed by a section that was fill of bamboo that shoots up so high and long that it almost completely shaded us away from the burning sun.

We were fortunate enough to have a tour guide along the way to tell us about all the different plants that were surrounding us. The garden was full of exotic flowers that not only look beautiful, but also taste great. The guide told us that one of the white petal flowers tastes like sour apple and told us to try it, many of us were skeptical at first but then most of us tried it and loved the taste. We were then introduced to plants that also had different medicinal uses. There was this hot pink flower that has buds, which can be used to relieve pink eye, and there was a leaf that can help stop bleeding. Along the way, the tour guide also pointed out a cactus that can be used to make shampoo. There was also a touch sensitive plant that shivers up its leaves when touched, which many of us find really fascinating. Then the tour guide took us through a path along side the brook.

At the end of the path, there was a small lagoon of water where we can all swim in. I was really excited to get into the water without gearing up in my fins and snorkel mask. However, we were all overwhelmed by how cold the water was and by the how weird the quick sand texture at the bottom felt. All that is disregarded when we had our fun taking turns jumping off the rocks and into the pool of water. Many of us all had our unique way of making faces and movements while entering the water. [Notes: Pictures from Cranbrook should hopefully be posted in best of week two soon.]
The trip to Cranbrook garden was amazing and I think it is safe to concluded that we all had fun. I really enjoyed the hiking and swimming in the brook. It was also the first time that I’ve ever tried eating flowers and actually enjoyed it.
[Caption for bottom photo ] Picture of me holding our two test subject, the blunt spined brittle star (Ophiocoma echinata) and the banded-arm brittle star (Ophioderma appressum). Behind me is our designed black test tank.
[Caption for top photo] Group photo of us near the entrance of Cranbrooke garden by the aisles of palm trees.
-Avocado Amy

Amy blog pic

14 January

Cassie blog pic 1

Worry About a Thing”

(Note to readers: This blog can only
be read in a Jamaican accent and some stories are elaborated on a tad) So it’s
finally my turn to recap the events here in Discovery Bay.  Although we haven’t known each other for too
long, the friendships we have built will hopefully last a lifetime.  We have grown closer then any of us could
have imagined… one couple, Josh and Anna, have even decided to get married
because of this trip! [Ed: no, that occurred before they got here.] It has been a learning experience to be able to identify many
different species of marine organisms.  I
will never go to Robert Moses (a beach on the south shore of Long Island)
again without wondering what lies beneath…

Today we went with
Anthony (the dive instructor pictured driving the boat above) to Dairy Bull, a
place that the divers (DITS/NODS) have frequented but the snorkelers (SNITS
like me) had yet to experience.  The
waves were crashing on us pretty hard so to break it up I decided to make many furious
dives to depths that I was not able to go to in the shallower bay to stay below
water, and get a closer look at some of the coral and interesting species of
fish that have yet to be seen.  I even
punched a hammerhead shark in the nose because that’s what we were taught in
class to throw off his olfactory senses! [Ed: No sharks have been seen on this trip.] 
After being exhausted with that, I realized that my handy-dandy-neon-yellow
flotation device would keep me afloat, as long as there was enough air in it,
so for the remainder of the trip I stayed completely above water, looking down
at the new and interesting organisms below, and trying to avoid the chunks that
were floating near the boat from those who couldn’t take the waves.  We all got back on the boat, except for the
two we lost at sea [Ed: not “lost” just late returning to the boat.] and headed back to Discovery Bay. 

I’m currently rocking
it out to some cool jams and reflections of the daily events in the nightly
“pow wow” we have outside of my room upstairs. 
Everyone here brings an interesting story to the night until we fall
asleep from pure exhaustion.  Lately, it
has been a battle of the last wo/man standing and since there isn’t much more
time left here we don’t want to waste the nights sleeping.  We have learned a great deal from our ring
leader, Dan, about the world of marine organisms as well as the world of
politics and history and he is usually the last man standing.  We learn a lot from Allison (pictured to my
right below) about people from Minnesota
and about turkeys.  Carrie tells us many
things about Canadians and Alaska (especially
the fact that she can see Russia
from her house). There are always interesting quotes that Brian shares with us
to guess their origins; no one has perfected his guessing system quite yet.  He is also the *Catch Phrase* champion.  Kristin has perfected the bend and snap
method as well as being a crab hunter to wrestling with them for her experiment
and can make a mean map on paint.  Anna
will teach you a word from any language that you want to know and attempt to get
you to pronounce it correctly.  Josh just
knows everything, from music to life he is a great source of information.  Alina is the master of disaster, meaning she
always finds a way to get hurt, never seriously of course, but this has
transformed her to our stand in physician, taking care of us when we get hurt.  Raphey is just the master of getting in every
picture that has ever been taken here in Jamaica.  If he senses a flash going off he smells it a
mile away and makes a running leap into the picture (with a banana in hand of
course) it’s quite a talent.  Amy has
been on more study abroad trips then anyone here and brings an interesting
point of view to the table.  Lisa has so
much energy, that girl could run around the compound a thousand times and still
want to do a somersault and running leap in the middle of her presentation(this
actually happened tonight).  Will always
shares his random medical facts including how to tell the difference between a
female and a male’s wrist.  Cat is my
partner in crime, as well as my partner for our projects and we show the
seagrass who is boss together every day, while jamming to Bob Marley on Will’s
computer.  Brad is the karaoke champion
of the world, and Joe is the one he serenades every night. [Ed: There is no serenading.] Jamaica has been an unforgettable
experience and I will cherish these memories for life.

Common phrases heard throughout Jamaica:
No problem mon, Cool runnings, respec (usually following a pound of some sort),
lemmie braid your hair, would you like a taxi?, how about some beads? I have a
gift for you, now tip me!

Common phrases heard in Discovery Bay: Like literally… Carrie. So, basically…
Will/Tex. Don cha know?… Allison.  Where
are the bonanars?… Raphey. No, I’m really going to bed now… everyone. 

Hello to everyone in snowy NY from



-Cassie (the paparazzi)

 Cassie blog pic 2

13 January

January 14 jamaica 088

Today started off with an early
morning observation of our projects at 6 am. My partner Carrie and I are
testing the feeding rate of a specific urchin, Lytechinus variegates, in the wet lab. They eat sea grass and we just want to find out how much can one urchin eat. This specific urchin tends to aggregate in the wild and we
want to see if this behavior affects their feeding rate. Also, we want to test
the effect of the light on one of our sea urchin tanks by placing a black
garbage bag over the tank while they are feeding. We
gave a nod to fellow researchers, Josh and Amy, who were also up early doing
observations for their own project. I have yet to see the sunrise here because
the direction the sun comes up seems to be blocked by the high trees surrounding
the compound. I will see it before I leave, but now I can only imagine how
incredible it is. Breakfast was delicious with buttermilk pancakes, Aunt Jemima
Syrup, and bacon. There were only four of us in the cafeteria this morning
ready to eat at 7:30. Lisa quickly became the fifth person in the cafeteria
because as the cafeteria ladies told us our breakfast was served, she ran in
out of nowhere as the smell of the pancakes reached her nose. We are the few
who will always be ready for breakfast because who knows what lunch and dinner
may bring. As Kristin said in her blog before, now the 7:30 am breakfast eaters
trickle in later than usual or some skip breakfast all together to catch up on
some well needed sleep.

The rest of
the day was spent on our projects. Since we do not have lectures any more, we
have a bit more free time to relax, when we are not working on our projects. So
most of the girls, including myself, try to lie in the sun and work on our
tans. However, this past week the weather here lately has been very windy with
an overcast sky. I know I really should not be complaining, but bad weather
here brings choppy, rough waters where the visibility [Ed: in the water] is very poor. This makes
it more difficult for the groups who have to do their experiments or
observations far out in the bay. Dan, Raphey, Alina and Anna were getting
tossed around by the huge swells of the waves, which left them utterly
exhausted…with the exception of Raphey who claims he is too mighty to be
brought down by Mother Nature herself. [Ed: No, he is not.]  Brian
and Texas,
a.k.a Will, also battled the treacherous waters today. But they had to deal
with another obstacle… working with Diadema antillarum, the long-spined sea urchin that is covered with sharp, yet
fragile spines. Dan coined them with the name, the Dynamic Diadema Duo
(fighting crime, one Diadema at a time!), which seems to be very fitting for
them. Needless to say, their hands are taking a beating out there.

Many of us are being stung by
things beneath the sea, whether it is a fire worm or a sea wasp, but nothing
that vinegar or a home remedy cannot fix. They seem to be a normal occurrence
around here. Some of us also are having the issue of chaffing with our wets
suits which ends up in a bad rash. Early mornings, rough waters, being stung, and
rashes are not pleasant at all, but it comes with the job description of being
a research scientist and you just have to deal with it. It’s not a mp, it’s a
yp, right Joe? [Ed: actually, no. It’s a mp, not a yp.]

Hot dogs
and beans (although I think they were actually made of chicken [Ed: the hot dogs, not the beans]) were served for
lunch. This looked incredibly gross, some braved the entrée, while some of us
just ate toast with butter or jam and hoped for a better selection at dinner [Ed: Many of us enjoyed the lunch dish. Others are pretty picky eaters.].
To our surprise dinner was amazing. A chicken and pineapple dish with fried
rice and veggies, and corned-beef as well but to Joe’s disappointment, no
cabbage. [Ed: I was not disappointed by the lack of cabbage.]

The day
ended as Brad, Joe, and some of the kids played a hand of Texas Hold ‘em, and
the rest of us enjoyed a good conversation under the stars of the Caribbean sky.

-Allison (…don’t cha know)

12 January – Raphey’s Epic-Length Blog Post

Raphael blog pic 1

First, let me
just say, I know this was supposed to be your [Ed: Allison’s] blog day and I’m sorry for
stealing it.  I know your life is
extremely exciting because you can make an airplane blanket into almost
anything.  (awkward plane rides are the
worst) Level vibes mon.

“Raphey…Raphey!  Are you still coming with us?” I awake
startled and confused to Amber’s whispers. 
Her sound traveled through the room, passed by 4 other unconscious guys
still recovering from a hard days work and struck me right square in the
ear-drum.  “Huh – oh yea! Hold on, I’ll
be right there!” I nearly smack my head on the ceiling as I throw off the
covers and leap off the bunk-bed (In the act of being a gentleman, I was
unfortunately stuck with the top bunk). 
I was supposed to get up at 6:20 to be ready to leave the dock at 7:00
and it was already 6:45!  My excitement
and determination to dive this morning completely blocks out that dizziness
feeling that comes with just waking up. 
It also blocks out the pain of landing on my ankle sideways after jumping
from the bed, but I silently hop around with my teeth clenched, trying not to
wake anybody else up.  I threw on my loin
cloth [Ed: swimsuit] and ran out. Outside the room, almost tripping over a pyramid of empty bottles and banana peels (my fault), I sprint down the stairs,
down a glass of pineapple juice (or whatever strange, glowing-neon concoction
was in the juice fountains in the kitchen), and made it to the docks in time to
suit up and jump into the boat.  Amber,
Brad, and Alan (an awesome guy from New Zealand, who has a wicked accent) who
had recruited me to help out in Amber’s project (well…it was more like a week
of me begging them to let me tag along after I got certified for scuba diving
with the rest of the DITs) joined me on the boat.  We shipped out as the sun was just stretching
itself across the sky and every photosynthetic being in the ocean readied
themselves for another day (10 extra points Joe?).  [Ed: “photosynthetic being”  is too general an answer, partial credit only…]

With Brad and
the wheel, Alan took the time to explain my job as his diving buddy.  Every time Allan pointed out a specific
sponge species, I was to hammer a number tag into the sediment with a mallet,
while he took pictures and measurements.  
Sounded like a pretty sweet deal. 
As a plus, I would be scuba diving off the coast of Jamaica!  I know it seems obvious, but even a week and a
half into this trip I still have to step back and pinch myself sometimes to
believe the craziness of our situation – and this is our winter vacation!  It should
be snowing! 

 We cruised along the coast, approaching the
dive zone known as Dairy Bowl [Ed: actually the site is Dairy Bull] (considering this is a large dairy bowl full of
seafood, I don’t know why I even decided to go on this extremely un-kosher dive
in the first place).  Besides a few
early-bird fishermen (I’ve learned that some of these guys can free-dive to 60
feet without an air-tank), we were the only boat on the water.  Amber let us know that she had brought some
snacks for breakfast.  She had some bad
news: “unfortunately, I just brought a large bunch of bananas.” I assured her that
that was definitely not a problem. Cool-runnings.

Alan and I
dove into the water and began our descent into the depths of the sea.  Trailing my partner’s bubbles, with all of my
equipment, I felt like Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball.  The only difference was that I didn’t have a
cool harpoon gun, a tuxedo under my wet suit, or a beautiful Bond girl waiting
for me to save her (she’s safely back in Queens).  After gliding over acres of coral, he finally
spotted a sponge and pointed me to it (at first I thought he was pointing to my
head because of the species richness of my weave.  I have whole ecosystems in there, it’s scary).  I took out Thor’s mighty hammer, and instead
of the slow-motion effect I thought being underwater would have on my hammering,
it was in fact no different than hammering on land (although after the first
hit, the recoil sent me flying up in the water).  After an hour of tagging and nailing (and
avoiding a huge spotted eel), we were low on air and slowly ascended to the
boat.  Aboard the boat, Brad and Amber
jumped in and Allan and I chewed the fat (and most of the bananas).  We even spotted a gigantic-sized sea turtle
(which breathed fire and everything!) [Ed: no, it did not.]. 
We whistled at it, but for some reason it didn’t respond.  We went back down for one more hour to tag
sponges when the other team came up. 
During one hammering session, we heard the roar of an engine growing
louder and louder.  We looked up to the
surface just as a huge boat passed over. 
It had a glass bottom and a bunch of tourists were peering through.  Now I know what it feels like to be a fish in
an aquarium.  Sadly, they didn’t throw
any peanuts.

We returned
to land just in time to catch the end of lunch (Chinese noodles).  There was an awkward sharing of the dining
room between the mighty Seawolves (who had just recently dominated and then
exiled the C.W. Post kids) and a new group who threatened our newly gained
territory.  A bad case of inter-specific
competition.  Although I had left my
project partner El Chupacabre [Ed: Dan] to face the morning shift alone, he completed it
and even did the mid-day recordings (fighting off an eel and a ravenous
barracuda!) (yea, it’s a good song).  I
put on my already damp wetsuit and jumped in the water.  The wetsuit may be uncomfortable to put on,
but it makes jumping into the water 10 times better than just jumping in with
only boxers.  With our powers combined
(and the help of captain planet) we finished the evening shift no sweat (Dan
also spotted a scorpion fish.  What is it
about Dan the donutman that attracts the deadliest creatures out there?).  We came back, updated the powerpoint
presentation, and headed to dinner.   Dinner, like always, was great, but people
really need to learn to share the food and not block the aisles with their
seats [Ed: the irony of this last clause is unbelievable…].  I listened to Beefsteak (the
shake and bake gangsta) amaze us with his flawless movie-line memory and superb
impersonations.  On the subject of Brian
being flawless, I think although he didn’t have too much experience in
volleyball before this trip, he has surpassed us all in terms of consistency
and can lay the smack-down on every serve. 
By the end of dinner, Cassie, Anna, Alina, and Allison had succeeded in
transforming me into a crime-fighting rabja (a combo rabbi/ninja).  I battled Cassie out into the streets of Jamaica with
sound effects and everything.  It was way
more intense than Peter fighting the man-sized chicken (Family

On the way to
the computer room, I cautiously passed by the water tower, the most dangerous
part of the Discovery Bay Marine Labs. 
My good friend Tonto had been devoured by a 6 foot long venomous snake
only the other night.  At the computer
lab, we all presented the work we’ve done so far on our projects (yea, I
chickened out) and dispersed.  I had to write
this blog, because I needed to get some sleep for the morning, but the rest of
the gang all decided to do something different. 
So they played “catch phrase.”  To
some that play this game, it may be a joke, but to our group (ages 19-28) it is
serious.  People have yelled at each
other in frustration, thrown the game off the balcony, and some have lost limbs
(thanks a lot Cassie).  We don’t mess

A small chat
by the docks with my hommies Allison and Texas T and then it was off to
bed.  After a long, tiring day of
research in Discovery Bay, the reward of a few
hours of sleep is extremely appreciated and well deserved.  I put my head down to the pillow and let out
a grand sigh.  I drifted into sleep to
the sound of the wookies and turkeys that dwell in the trees (and on the BRANCHES)
of Jamaica.

— Raphaelii

11 January


[Ed: The course instructors are not responsible for any permanent damage caused by someone looking at this shirt.]

like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and French-fried potatoes. Yes, oh
yes. Today was Cheeseburgers in Paradise day. After ten harsh, grueling days of
eating food that cannot be ordered from a drive-thru window, today we got
cheeseburgers; and it was fantastic. All the lectures are over, and we’re
pretty much on our own schedules now, working on our own projects at whatever
tempo they may require. Yet, somehow, around noon everyone started gathering in
the cafeteria (lunch isn’t until 12:30). They began bringing the cheeseburgers
out 4-5 at a time, hoping to amass enough to feed everyone by the time lunch
started. Unfortunately, the sweet Jamaican women in the kitchen did not realize
that you can’t place cheeseburgers in front of a group of hungry college
students and expect them to wait thirty minutes to eat. We didn’t, and they
were delicious.

lunch I embarked on setting up my Macgyver shave. Now, I’m only mentioning this
because I think it is a beautifully perfect example of the types of
problem-solving skills we learn in college, preparing us for life in the real
world. You see, there is no hot water at Discovery Bay Marine Lab. [Ed: In the student dorms.] Not much of
an issue since it is 85 and sunny every day, until it comes time for the boys
to shave. Thus, the Macgyver shave. We have wrangled up an electric kettle,
this gives us hot water, but unfortunately it’s water that’s hot enough to peel
the skin off our faces. So then we went out and found a giant old-school, steel
drum kettle. Why do we have a steel drum kettle you might ask? Well, we do have
a stove, but it’s a gas stove, and the gas lines are all capped, and there’ s
no 220 outlet to plug it in, so basically the answer is “I Don’t Know”. But we
have one, and since there is zero chance of anyone using it to make tea, we
fill it halfway with cold water and the other half with steamin’ hot kettle
water. Thus the setup for the Macgyver shave is complete, and it works fantastic.
Smooth as a baby’s anything. The girls use it for their legs, the guys use it
for their faces, the hardest part about the whole has become figuring out who
had the kettles last. Brilliant, I know. It’s okay, you’re allowed to be

aside from that it was an uneventful day. Not a bad day, the weather was
beautiful, the food was great, we had barbeque ribs and jerk chicken for
dinner, just uneventful. We were all well immersed in our data collection for
our research projects. We did however manage to sneak in a game of volleyball
after dinner [see photo below], and the professor’s even decided to join us for a little while.
So that’s about all. I have to head back to the lab to check on my Bollmannia
And to think, just last week I would have simply called them



10 January


Due to the
late night writing of research proposals the night before, I missed the 7:30am
breakfast that everyone enjoyed. Today was pretty exciting though, my research
partner, Cassie, and I, were able to get started on our research project. We’ve
decided to study the nitrogen enriched sea grass in Discovery Bay caused by seeping groundwater and the effect it has on the grazing herbivores
that feed on it. It’s a behavioral study that is going to require much work in
the lab but many snorkels will still need to be had to collect our primary
producer, Thalassia testudinum, and
its grazers, the West Indian sea egg urchin
Tripneustes ventricosus
, the Variegated Urchin, Lytechinus variegates, and Bucktooth Parrotfish, Sparisoma radians. [Ed: The picture above is none of these but just a charismatic fish.]

Just the
day before, Cassie and I had set out to find Anthony, the dive officer here at
the marine lab and go-to guy for just about everything else, to make a trap for
the parrotfish we will be needing for our experiments. Parrotfish rely on
seagrass for nutrients and it is their main food source. We took an old z-trap
that was in the back of the wet lab, patched up the holes and set out in the
boat to drop it. We tied empty plastic bottles to a rope attached to the trap
as our marker and used delicious bananas and wheat bread as bait. We were not
the only ones excited about this trap, as any bycatch has been promised to a
number of other people for their projects.

The day was
filled with snorkeling, chaos and some excited and disappointed faces in the
wet labs. It was day two of our projects and any problems with experiments that
were set up the day before were now being realized. Anna and Alina, the urchin
catching machines, had some problems with their urchins, who turned out to be
more persistent in surpassing any barriers they had made than they had
originally thought. Amy and Josh were also running into some unforeseen
problems with their goby fish. They had a few mortalities within their
well-planned and constructed tank (see below) that allows different levels of light into
each section. The goby were also more complicated to catch then they had
originally thought, every hour coming up with a new tool to use for the task.
Each time they seemed to have come out with larger sticks/poles attached to
larger and larger nets but still was unsuccessful. They will be switching to
brittle stars and any other fish they are able to get their hands on to use in
their project.

After a
lunch of french fries and chicken nuggets, a rare and delicious treat for us
American visitors, Cassie, Alina, Anna and I decided to go snorkeling for some
more urchins, seagrass and food for our specimens. Cassie and I collected
enough seagrass for a months worth of research (we wanted to be able to choose
the best specimens for our needs) but had little luck at catching any
urchins.  While swimming back to the dock
area, we both assumed Anna and Alina had much of the same luck due to the
turbulent waves caused by the strong winds that afternoon. However, we were surprised to find them with not one, not two but three bags full of urchins and other goodies (algae and
seagrass) and a deal was soon made for the urchins they may not need. This was,
however, not the first disappointment Cassie and I encountered for the day. We
had thought our trap could be hauled out of the water by midday for some fish
but it couldn’t be done. The weather seemed to halt everyone’s plans though,
not being able to take a boat out to our trap and others not being able to have
comfortable dives. Cassie and I did, however, set up our tanks and prepared our
ropes for the seagrass specimens but were unable to do much else until we could
obtain the un-enriched seagrass from outside the discovery bay area that we
needed for comparison.

The day was
filled mostly with preparations for our research presentations that each group
needed to give that night to the professors and class for feedback and
suggestions. Every group seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do and was
very articulate in their plans for the next few days’ experiments, surveys and
observations. There was a kind of excitement in the air for the days to follow.
We were finally free to get started with our projects, and even though many of
us had run into some minor setbacks, I think our research projects will turn
out better for them in the end.

— Cat