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]