09 January – DITs No More


Today marks the start of our research projects!  As the days go on I think I can represent
most of us by saying that the attention my snooze button is getting increases with
each day.  People slowly trickled into
breakfast, which was eggs, ham, pancakes, and fresh fruit.  Not a bad start to the day!  After breakfast Lisa, Raphael, and I decided
to go on a Dive Trip with the C.W.Post group (who is also sharing the compound
with us) to Rio Bueno.  About 15 minutes
away by boat, this dive site is absolutely beautiful with clear water and lots
of marine life!  The boat that Lisa,
Raphael, Omar (the boat driver), and I took was called the “Tody” and was a
small boat which ran nicely over the water. 
Since the DITs (Divers
In Training) have now graduated to NODs (Novice Divers) (NODs Lisa and Kristin shown in above photo) we were able to dive by
ourselves for the first time!  The dive
began with a Navy Seal entrance into the water by sitting on the side of the
boat and falling off backwards into the water. 
When we entered the water our gear was then handed to us from whomever
was still aboard the boat.  After gearing
up we followed the anchor line down to about 20ft and swam away from the boat
to reach a coral face that steeply sloped down for a good 100ft.  This turned out to be our deepest dive yet as
we are allowed to dive up to 60ft.  There
were so many different corals, sponges, fish, and algae living on the wall face
that it was absolutely breathtaking.  After
the wall face we were able to dive through some small openings between walls of
corals, and under a protruding ledge we found a lionfish (photo below)!  He was just chilling out underneath the ledge
without a care in the world (apparently he didn’t have a research proposal due
in a couple hours).  The dive lasted for
about an hour total down time, and soon we made our way back to the

Lunch was a
Jamaican staple-dish, Jamaican beef patties! 
They are fantastically delicious! 
After lunch we were to polish up our proposals and meet with Brad and
Joe to discuss our research projects.  Lisa and I have decided to do a study on the factors
that affect the distribution of organisms that live in the Giant Anemones (Condylactis gigantae).  As of today we have done a survey of 100
anemones towards the algal ridge and observed the organisms interacting with
each anemone.  Tomorrow we are going to
plan out the main portion of our project which consists of capturing the crabs
that live in these anemones, tagging them and the anemone they came from,
releasing them back on their anemone, and observing their migration and
competitive behaviors.  Hopefully we’ll
get another dive trip in too!

Hope everyone at home is doing well!  

-Kristin ><>


08 January – Dunn’s River Falls


My time in Jamaica has
been spectacular so far. Coral reefs are present, snorkeling is a regular part
of life, and new things are learned. However, the work has been intense and
there was an exam yesterday. So after all the studying, we really needed a
break from the work. Well, that day was today and it was just the break we

I woke up at 7:00 am and would
eat breakfast at 7:30. The van would arrive at around 8:30 and we packed up and
got ready for our trip. After 45 minutes of driving, we would arrive at Dunn’s River Falls (see photo above). The falls were next to a beach, where our first picture of the day was taken.
After that, the group would climb up the waterfall. This was very intense yet
unique at the same time. I went hiking before in the mountains and I could say
I would get hot as well as sweaty. In Dunn’s River Falls,
it has waterfalls, which would get you refreshed and rocks to climb for the
adrenaline rush. Dunn’s River Falls is a great tourist
attraction that is worth checking out, but it’s better to arrive early.

After climbing the falls
twice and getting dressed, the van would take us to the city of Ocho Rios. This city was
very beautiful and we spent 4 hours looking around the city. We would go to a restaurant
called Margaritaville. The restaurant was a fun place where the scenery was
outside, the food was good, and there was dancing. I had ordered the famous
jerk chicken, which was delicious. After dancing for a while, I would
participate in a contest [Ed: Brian at left in bottom photo]. There is a string tied around your waste with a ball
attached to the end and you have to swing the ball with your hips in order to
hit this box across the bar to win. I was dead last against 2 other people, but
I still had fun. We would take another picture of the group together as a sign
of friendship.

After eating, we would
travel around the flea market and check out various items such as woodcarvings
and paintings. The people would often pressure you in order to buy their items.
Some would just offer you a taxi ride or get your hair braided. Still, they
mean will and just want to make a living. After the flea market, we would go to
a convenience store and buy food and water. We would look around various shops.
I would end up buying a dolphin that holds candles. After 4 hours, we would
travel back to Discovery Bay and eat dinner. We
would write our proposals for the future projects. Today was a good day and
life in Jamaica is good.

— Brian


07 January – The First Exam !

Alina cutting Lisa's hair

was probably the most stressful day of our stay here in Jamaica. Our
practical exam was scheduled for after dinner and we had about 4 days (in
between collecting and identifying organisms, attending lectures, and creating
PowerPoint presentations) to learn all 10 lectures and memorize 85 scientific Latin
names and their classifications. Breakfast consisted of Eggo waffles, bacon,
and fruit salad. I fell for the trickery of Professor Warren when he asked me
how I was doing this morning and I said I was doing great, not remembering that
this is how he chooses the blog writer for the day. After we ate quickly,
everyone retreated to their rooms for a massive cramming session referred to as
panic time on the daily schedule. To try and soak up as much Jamaican sun as
possible, I decided to have a study picnic outside and shortly after, Anna
joined me and we quizzed one another until lunchtime. Because the Latin names
of all of these organisms are almost impossible to just remember, we came up
with a word association game, turning the Spotted Sea Hare, Aplysia dactylomila
into Apple-I-See-Ya Teradactyl-Oatmeal-A. During a study break I wandered into
Anna, Kristin, and Lisa’s room, where I was immediately asked by Lisa to cut
her hair off. Naturally I was confused and reluctant at first, but when I was
shown the baseball-sized clump of matted hair at the base of her head, I agreed
under the condition that she state clearly in front of a witness that she was
fully aware of her request and in a normal mental state at the time.  So, Kristin, Anna, and I proceeded to cut off
Lisa’s massive dreadlock with the only tool available to us, a pair of
dissecting scissors (see above photo).

lunch they served seasoned salmon and baked potatoes. At this point, we were
really feeling the pressure and some were beginning to get a little unstable.
We presented our PowerPoints at 4pm, each group showing their pictures of
adventures on the coral reef and identifying organisms that were collected or
seen. The species most commonly seen in Discovery Bay
was the Red Stripe, also known as Raphaelus Bergmanis. After our presentations we
had a pop quiz on tropical fish identification and then studying resumed until
dinner. We had a stir-fry chicken and beef selection as well as string beans
and salad. Upside-down lemon meringue cake [Ed: Looked like lemon custard merinque pie to me…] was served for dessert, which was
when Will, Raphael, and I quizzed each other before the exam. After filling our
brains to maximum capacity, we headed to the wet lab, where Professors Warren
and Peterson set up 50 stations with questions on the study material. The
intense studying caused intense release in the form of volleyball and late
night game of Catch-phrase (see photo below). Needless to say, the always animated Brian caused a lot of
laughter with his over-the-top dramatics. Altogether, the day was long, we worked
hard, but we partied hard too.

-Alina (aka Appletini)


06 January – Sleep and Snorkel


Today was
an early morning rise at 6 AM to catch the calmest waters of the day. A few of
us left bright and early and came back with nets filled of fish, algae, and
invertebrates just in time for breakfast. It is absolutely amazing the result
that the ocean can have on your stomach. No matter how full the 7:30 AM breakfast
may be it is impossible for it to prevent the eventual rumbling of your stomach
again barely one hour after. Nonetheless, most of us returned to swimming and
diving at just about that time.

Most of the
rest of the day followed this general course: food, snorkel, class, study and
start again. Tomorrow we have both our written and practical exams, and we need
to present our findings of the last few days. It is the end of these that
everyone is looking forward to. After these, our research projects will
begin and we will not look back until the spring semester begins back in the

Among the
notable sights of the day, we have: an early morning octopus (shown above), a
Urolophus jamaicensis (yellow stingray), a few eels, plenty of alga, a couple
sea stars, fish, and a few more unfortunate sea cucumbers.

— Will

05 January


This morning five of us got up at
6:00 am and arrived at the docks at approximately 6:30.  Now, how many Stony Brook students does it
take to change a light bulb?  Well to
answer that it’s only one, since my room completed the task.  However, now I pose the question how many
Stony Brook students does it take to determine whether a door is locked?  Soon you will see why.  We proceed to the locker room to retrieve the
snorkeling equipment.  One of us
determines that the door is padlocked and the rest of us simply believe
him.  The security guard checks the door
at 6:45 only to inform us that it was not locked the entire time.  Apparently the answer is four.  Snorkeling commenced at 7:00.  Breakfast was at 7:30 serving pancakes,
French toast, bacon and fruit.

After breakfast was another snorkel
trip.  There were some camera
issues.  However, many interesting fish,
such as needle fish, were seen.  We had
an eleven o’clock lecture on mangroves and sea grasses.  Our lectures mostly relate to the things that
we see while snorkeling and diving.  They
will certainly be helpful when it comes to determining project topics.

Lunch was served at twelve-thirty.  For me it was a dish very reminiscent of
home: beans and hot dogs.  There was one
small difference, the hot dogs were chicken. 
Chicken seems to be a staple food item here.   I have enjoyed every chicken dish that they
have served so far.   I did learn to not
eat very much before diving. After lunch today was the long
awaited store trip.  We sent a few
representatives to go shopping.  The trip
appeared to be quick and productive since they returned within an hour.  They were able to find all kinds of things to
eat and drink.  However, phone cards were
not to be found.  If anyone would like
some Jamaican coffee it can be ordered so comment and hopefully someone will
bring it back for you.

The DITs went out scuba diving again today.   The water was calm.  This time three snorkelers came along on the
boat.  The snorkelers then swam all the
way back to shore.  For those of you that
are unaware, DITs stands for Diver in Training. 
We successfully completed dive three of the four checkout dives.  This dive consisted of ‘out of air’
exercises.  Once these tests were
completed we were able to spend time swimming around the reef.  This allowed us to become more comfortable in
the water and see many different types of fish. 
One camera was brought on the dive. 
The picture above shows two of us on the bottom.  Note that the one smiling broke the cardinal
rule of scuba diving: “never hold your breath”. 
Good thing he is skilled at standing still.  Tomorrow we will complete the last of our
checkout dives.  Today I learned that
Jamaican boys certainly are smooth.  Omar
helps us with our equipment on the boat. 
When I asked him how he was feeling today he said tired.  I asked him why and he said too much
partying.  Here is the funny part.  When I asked him how old he was he said ‘old
enough’.  Turns out he’s seventeen.  Don’t we all wish we were seventeen and out partying
in Jamaica.  Many of us will spend
tonight studying for the exam on Wednesday and identifying our collections.


04 January


Anna in the wetlab with an urchin (Tripneustes) !

Today was the third day here at Discovery Bay.
We had three lectures, and snorkeling on our own after breakfast, as well as in
the afternoon after the second lecture. We all paired up yesterday to work on
collecting animals and plants that we’ll need to know for the test, and today
we actually began the collecting. Everyone went snorkeling in the morning after
breakfast, and everyone got something from the water. Algae, of course, are the
easiest things to get, since they can’t swim away or prick you. That’s what I
stuck to in the morning, since on the second day of snorkeling I still wasn’t
totally comfortable in the water. It’s quite cold at first and I had to resist
hyperventilating. Anyway, there are lots of interesting types of algae, like Sea
Pearls, that look like shiny bubbles stuck to other types of algae or rocks.
One group (Lisa and Kristin) did manage to get something more than algae – they
caught a burrfish, which is similar to a pufferfish but less prickly. They also
found a cool little anemone with a bright pink body and greenish purple tipped
tentacles. The anemones are everywhere in the reef, and can be very large when
opened up; some I saw were seven or eight inches spread open.

When we
went out later in the afternoon, the water had gotten rather cold [Ed: cold = 75F] but I forced
myself anyway because of the collecting we have to do in order to prepare for
the test. I caught a very big spiky black sea urchin right by the dock, and
then when we were further out, Josh caught a different kind of anemone, with shorter
white spikes and black little feet/tentacles. I also found a
Indies anemone, which has greenish short spikes. The urchins are
pretty strange feeling if you let them relax in your hands, because they reach
out their feet and suction on to your skin, and move around a bit by pulling
themselves with their feet.

There are
also sea cucumbers everywhere on the sand in the water, and when you just swim
by them, they pretty much look like huge turds. One of the common names of one
species is “donkey dung.” Basically they just sit there in the water. Boring.
But they are pretty cool if you get them into the wet labs. They move around
and squirt water, and have subtle patterns in their skin. Some of them are
easier to pick up in the water, because they’re softer and conform slightly to
the pressure of your hand, while others are more like wet thick leather, with lots of little suction feet that cling fast to whatever surface they’re on.
They’re sort of like slugs, not genetically, but they way they move – they sort
of slide and inch along slowly. Apparently they are a delicacy in China and are also eaten in Indonesia and Malaysia. Hmm.. not something I’m
going to try!

The weather
has been perfect so far, sunny and warm, and only slightly overcast this past
afternoon. The food is good, though the snack crackers and cookies are a bit on
the stale side. They don’t make coffee all the time in the cafeteria, which
might help before a lecture ( :P) but they do have pretty good tea here, better
than Lipton at least.

compound is smallish, and of course we’re not allowed out, but we have enough
to do. We’re busy enough with snorkeling and identifying what we’ve collected,
and relaxing after our night lecture. Someone brought CatchPhrase and that has
been a big hit. All we need is the marine biology edition to help us study!

– Anna

03 January 2009


Our day began with an early morning
breakfast of an Ackee dish, a National staple here in Jamaica made up of a
local fruit and saltfish.  After everyone
had eaten we we're ready to begin our second lecture on algae and
identification of the different types that may be seen here at Discovery
Bay.  Once our lecture period was over it
was time to get our first taste of snorkeling and diving on the coral
reef.  Once Anthony, the resident dive
master,  explained all of our guidlines
and safety regulations we we're ready to get wet and explore.

A few of the students better known
as DIT's (divers in training) went with Anthony to begin their training to
become certified PADI divers while the rest of us joined Dr. Peterson and Dr.
Warren for a mid morning snorkel. After 
everyone was paired into a buddy system we all navigated around the
inner reef seeing many different organisms including sea cucumbers, sea urchins,
tropical fish, sea fans and polychaete worms. 
After an hour, led by Dr. Peterson, a few adventurers decided to
continue the journey through the reef and onto the oceanside to see what else
we could find.  After weaving through
shallow, underwater passage ways, the group made it to the ocean and here in
deeper waters many different types of coral could be seen along with some
larger fish.  After an hour, Dr. Warren
also joined the group oceanside to get some snorkeling of his own.  After a few hours in the water we decided to
make our way back too land to join the diving group and discuss what we had

After reaching shore and removing
and cleaning all of our gear it was time for lunch.  The kitchen had prepared us a wonderful mix
of home cooked fried chicken strips and macaroni and cheese as well as fresh
salad and fruit.  After we ate we all
headed down to the landing area to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking view of
Discovery Bay.  After a little break it
was time for the DIT's to make an open water dive with Anthony so accompanied
by Dr. Warren and Dr. Peterson they made there way out in the boats to a
secluded diving area.  Here they learned
different dive techniques and were joined by a boatloadt of students from another university who are also studying at DBML. 

Back at the Marine Lab the other
students took another snorkeling trip but this time into the mangrove area to
the left of the research buildings.  Here
we explored the variance in marine organisms in comparison to those on the
reef.  Since mangroves can be a potential
nursery for all sorts of marine life we didn't have to go far to see all the
different fascinating levels of the mangrove community.

When all the excursions had ended
and we met up on land we got a chance to discuss what we saw in a lecture
period as well as get instructions on research 
and our collection and identification projects.  After an awesome dinner of silver snapper and
rice we made our way back to the computer lab for one more lecture on tropical
marine invertebrate taxonomy.  Once our
lecture was completed the group met up together to play an intense game of
"Catch Phrase" on the outside patio. 
Utterly exhausted we all finished the game and retired to our rooms to
rest up for day three and the many more days of excitement to come.

– Dan

Arrival in Jamaica


We have arrived in Jamaica ! 14 Stony Brook University undergraduates (and two professors) have left the winter paradise of Long Island (left) and traveled to the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory in Jamaica (right). Although the environment is strange (80 degree water and air temperatures), all of us are managing to adapt to these arduous conditions. Students in the course will be posting daily updates throughout the course so check back regularly to see what the class has been doing.

Prof. Joe Warren