19 Jan – Dolphins in the Waves

was different from all of the other days that we’ve been in Jamaica because we
went on a boat ride to Rio Bueno to go snorkeling. Some of us went scuba
diving. It was really cool to see the difference between Discovery Bay &
Rio Bueno.  At Rio Bueno the water was
blue- er & there were more variety of corals & fish that I saw. It
looked more like what I expected coral reefs to look like. It was like jumping
into one of those under water calendars & experiencing the coral reefs in
person instead of just seeing pictures of them. It was so relaxing just
floating in the water watching the fish swim by.

            On the way back from Rio Bueno, the
fresh air & the sea spray definitely felt refreshing after swimming, we saw
a pod of bottlenose dolphins swimming through the waves. It was so cool! I’ve
never seen them in the wild so close before & it’s one of the once in a
life time opportunities.

            Unfortunately we couldn’t sit there
all day watching the dolphins… as much as we would have wanted to. We have our
research projects that have to get done & our time is almost up working on
them. Not to mention that we also have to present what we’ve done so far on
them tonight.

– Sarah D.

19 Jan – Ian Went Underwater

The weather could not have been
better for diving today. I’d never been on a wall dive before, so I was pretty
excited to dive at Rio Beuno, which I was told is one of the best diving sites
in the area. The visibility was without a doubt the best we’ve experienced so
far and with virtually no wave action to toss us around it made for the best
dive of the trip so far. It was nice to get out of the lab for the day and
finally get to dive. After the dive we all snorkeled around the boat for a
little while and got to see a couple flounders and eels. Just when we thought
that was all we could see in one outing, we were leaving the anchor site in our
boats a pod of wild dolphins started circling our boat, the Scomber.  It was hard to tell
what happened after that, but people from the other boat told us the pod swam
back at us and then dove right before they got back to us.

It’s too bad that Debbie and I had
to change our project a couple days before hand because of poor weather conditions
that we thought would prevent us from diving regularly. On the bright side
however, our back up plan for our project is progressing very well. We
currently have twelve Diadema sea urchins in three tanks that we’re feeding
various genera of algae under different light conditions. We haven’t been able
to make as many measurements as we’d like to yet because we need to measure dry
weights instead of wet weights, but from just eyeing our specimens we believe
we’re getting the results we want.


Sumo finds a lionfish at Pear Tree.

18 Jan PM – From DIT to Diver

As the days keep passing, I'm
slowly coming to a realization that my adventures in paradise are slowly coming
to an end. The pressure from completing my research project definitely does not
help my case. My group and I have moved onto Plan C with our experiment, which
basically is what we planned for Plan A (but I'd rather call it Plan C, so I
don't feel like I wasted time). I know other groups have had some difficulties
come up as well, but we all help each other out…whether it's searching for
Aplysia dactylomela (sea hares, for those less informed) in late evening hours,
or just an accompanying snorkeling buddy. It must be the Jamaican air that
fused us into a well-knit community.

As my day started off on Monday, I
had no idea what was in store. I remember stepping out onto my balcony
overlooking the shore to greet the morning air and reflect on the water about
my project. I remember thinking to myself that the waves were finally calm
enough for us to video tape underwater to start getting some results. When I
got to breakfast, I was informed that there was going to be a diving adventure
in Rio Bueno. "Great, I hope I can come!", I thought to myself, as a
D.I.T. (diver in training). When I finally saw and asked Anthony, our very
laid-back, friendly diving instructor, whether I can go, he just looked at me
and said, "OF COURSE!!". I, obviously, was elated.

On the boat, I managed to pick a
seat that was a guaranteed "Get soak to the bone" seat (there and
back!). While there, the snorkelers, divers and the 3 DITs split off. Us, DITs,
stayed with Anthony to practice some bouyancy pointers and ascending. After
that, we explored a coral reef wall. It was probably the most amazing thing I
could have ever imagined. I swam well around and it felt so official. I was a
mermaid. I had schools of fish swimming next to me and I touched all types of
sponges (that I knew were safe to touch through our lecture on sponges by lovely
TA Amber, obviously!).

– Margaret

18 Jan AM – The non-Easter West Indian Sea Egg Hunt

Today  Lawrence and I decided to swim out to the reef crest
right after breakfast when the water was still calm. After swimming for a bit
longer than I expected, we finally arrived at a spot where West Indian sea eggs
where abundant, to catch the urchins we had a simple but effective technique,
using a spoon I would throw the spiky sea urchin up into the water while
Lawrence would catch them using a net bag. Before long we had 25 sea eggs to
swim back with, this made the swim back twice as long and twice as hard because
our hands were full this time. After finally making it back to shore we put the
sea eggs in a tank and headed to lunch. After lunch we collected some turtle
grass (sea grass) from around the lagoon and then we ran into a problem. We
need to use a scanner to be able to measure the sea grass but after hours of
installing different software and drivers we could not get it to work with our
computers. After fiddling with the computers for about 2 hours we went outside
to discover that was the most beautiful day we’ve had here in Jamaica so we
decided to go snorkeling with the rest of the class. In the clear blue water we
were able to see lots of marine life; some of the more adventurous students
(Josh and Max) were even able to catch a balloon fish and a poisonous lion
fish. After dinner boredom began to set in so we decided to play a game of hide
and go seek which didn’t last were long. Afterward everyone headed to bed and
that was the end of another beautiful day in Jamaica.


Catching Sea


17 Jan PM – Proper technique in the application of sunscreen

When you’re in the Caribbean one would usually expect warm sunny weather all day every day, with the occasional storm. Up until yesterday the idea seemed like a long shot and many were beginning to dread returning from sunny Jamaica without a tan. The idea was horrifying. Yesterday, however, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and the tanning began. [Ed: or in some cases burning] Today was another of those days, but without the sudden, random, and over in a minute rain shower in the afternoon. The day, for slackers like me, began at 9:30 and already the sunshine was blaring. [Ed: We do not encourage such slacking.]

After about an hour snorkeling out in the mangroves and carrying plastic zip lock bags full of seawater under my arms for our research project came a lunch of spaghetti with meat sauce for the non-vegetarians, salad, and fruit. I should have gone back out into the water later for more measurements but with one group member having a blistered foot and myself with a chest cough and clogged sinuses, the afternoon was instead spent working on my sunburn and evening out the tiger stripes on my arms and blotches on my legs that resulted from poor sunscreen application two days ago. I’ve since learned to apply sunscreen liberally and evenly over my skin, rather than a less time consuming slap-and-smear technique.

I thought the afternoon was going well up until maybe 2 or so when the ice cream man showed up on his bike. Then it was official. The older Jamaican man sat eating fried chicken while he served us “Napoleon” flavored ice cream for 100 Jamaican dollars each. Now, I’m fairly sure that vanilla chocolate strawberry ice cream is actually called Neapolitan ice cream, but I’ll overlook that little detail. I also noticed that anyone attempting to pay with American paid nearly double as he asked for $2 American, roughly $170 Jamaican. 

With only a week left here in Jamaica, every day becomes more valuable for working on our projects and hopefully getting off of the compound a couple more times, and with the weather finally behaving, things are looking promising. 



Debbie and the ice cream man

17 Jan AM – Reef[er] Madness

Today was ironically probably my most ambitious day of activities and events, ironic that I would get the chance to share this with everyone. So the last few days have been pretty lax, since finishing the [lecture portion of the class] work I have found it difficult to get any work done mostly because of weather conditions. My project along with Josh involves measuring changes in sponge growth in different reef sites along the coast using last year’s data from our resident TA Amber. Who by the way has been very helpful in learning how to catalogue and identify sponges. Anyways we decided that given accurate weather reports of low wind conditions from yesterday we would be allowed to tag along with Prof. Brad and Amber to one of the sites and see if we (Josh and I) could both prove useful to them and also start our project which at this point was starting to seem less and less possible to complete. 

Loathe as I was to awaken at seven (especially after the late night bonfire on the jetty shooting out into the bay) I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and put my gear together in the morning rain. Our departure was not much better as wind and rain kept the sea rolling with swells and white caps as we attempted to exit the bay; however, it was better (I was told) than their previous three mornings. We stood on the deck as we motored out to sea in our little boat cresting over the waves and bouncing through the troughs, all the while screaming classic rock songs over the wind and rain. We arrived 20 minutes later or so and Amber and I quickly suited up, hopped overboard, and with little effort managed to complete one of the several surveys Amber needs for her thesis, as Josh and Brad bided their time above water. When we returned to the surface 40 minutes later I noticed Josh had undone his wet suit and was sitting a little awkwardly on the side of the boat looking green. He had unfortunately thrown up most of the contents of his breakfast in the intervening time.  I also began to feel rather uncomfortable. Within a few minutes of surfacing I too managed to regret eating anything before heading out. All in all it was successful in the sense that our combined semi-digested breakfasts managed to attract the resident sea turtle Herbert to the scene who surfaced only a few feet off the port stern.

    The rest of the day has been a bit hazy due to the synergistic effects of dehydration and sleep deprivation. I have managed little other constructiveness, besides getting increasingly sunburned, taking a nap, and deciding that perhaps our project should not involve two dives per day at the risk of never holding down a meal. 

    Overall everyone enjoyed the post noon, balmy weather, and the multiple rainbows that appeared throughout the day. Most projects are coming along as far as I can tell and everyone seems to be in high spirits (besides Josh and me who are of course still recovering). It seems as though there is an angst starting to pervade the mood that perhaps our little vacation may end, and we will eventually have to return to the reality of not living in Jamaica; however, that said it has not become too tense yet and everyone remains excited.

Camoflauged peacock flounder on the reef.

– Max

16 Jan PM – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

This morning everyone started working on their research and a few had to change their ideas because of the fear of bad weather. Those of us doing their project on mangroves all went out for a group snorkel. We tagged roots, took water samples, and Kayla spotted a sea horse. It was a windy day and many of us had accepted the fact that diving and snorkeling would not be worth the effort. Eventually the wind did die down and divers and one DIT (diver in training) all went out for a dive at Columbus Park. This was my second real dive ever and I was very excited. 

We got out there, descended and regrouped at 20ft. Looking down all I could see was a deep abyss of blue but eventually and much to my surprise we touched bottom. The poor visibility wasn’t helped by the plume of re-suspended sediment kicked up by everyone. However, when we finally started to move the magnificent sponges, corals and other marine live became somewhat visible. I tried looking into sponges and crevices but the only notable thing I saw was a lizard fish, a few people saw a batfish, other than that I think the visibility was just too poor. Once we got back we went out to gather more research.  

Tangled amidst the roots of the mangroves and being harassed by the fearless dusky damsels we suddenly heard a rendition of “Ain’t no mountain high enough…” and the seriousness with which we were working was interrupted by snorkel-filtered laughter. Everyone must have been in a good mood today because the singing didn’t stop. It had started early in the morning continued through dinner, which was delicious, and right into the night. In the evening a few likeminded people had an urge to watch South Park however that urge was defeated by a beautiful fire started by Sarah. Everyone in our group stood around the fire winding down from another good day at DBML. There was singing, dancing and exchange of philosophy all of which burned throughout the night despite the extinguished fire. 

Sumo pics 002


16 Jan AM – This was actually a Launch Party

    Today [Ed: well, yesterday. The blogs go up the day after usually.] started with a Jamaican style breakfast that consisted of salt fish, spinach, biscuits, and peanut oatmeal with a twist. It was much creamier than oatmeal but that’s the closest I’ve ever had that comes close to that taste. After breakfast projects began to develop. My project required collecting different substrates. Sarah and I are looking at the reattachment rates of sponges on different things. So my morning was spent walking along the beach looking for flat rocks, sand, coral rubble, and garbage. We were originally going to try the reattachment rate on an algae covered rock but those are hard to find so we switched it to garbage which is sadly much more common. By lunch we had our wet lab stations set up and ready to go. Because the weather hasn’t been the best for diving we unfortunately couldn’t start our project. We didn’t have any sponges yet. 

Apple slushie 001

Collecting some rocks from the shore.

    The sun came out in the afternoon which brought everyone out to the water. Whether they were lying out on the grass or snorkeling, people were definitely taking full advantage of the sun. The divers went out at 3 because some projects required diving and the weather could no longer hold them back. I visited the back reef looking for sponges but had no luck. I have never been to the back reef, however, and I didn’t care that there were no sponges. Everything was so much greener and there were so many more fish compared to in the lagoon. The long swim out was definitely worth it. When we were getting out a full rainbow stretched across the sky. The day ended with a bonfire. We saw a huge tanker leave the bauxite mine next door to our lab and admired the hundreds of stars that are washed out by New York’s city lights.


15 Jan PM – Jamaican Time, Not New York No More

Finally, we were able to adjust to
the best of our abilities to the Jamaican lifestyle, also known by many
Jamaicans as “Jamaican time”. The conversion of lifestyles often has been
proven difficult for many, but after a few long equations with numbers that
have been derived from Navier-Stokes and others that use the Beaufort Sea State
scale, there has been a consensus that one minute New York is approximately ten
Jamaican minutes. [Ed: I think there are some unit conversion issues w/ the math here.]

A slow morning was been welcomed by
many and the sun finally flexes its strength a bit. This, by the way, had
opened the door for a few to show off their fresh sun burns.


“Its time to
celebrate life and nobody’s holding back.”

The morning hours were filled with scrambling to complete research
proposals. The afternoon hours were rewarded, after meetings with professors
about these proposals, with lots of tanning and swimming.  A day filled with relaxation, blue waters,
strong sun, and tropical flowers (for those who cared to look) was a recipe for

To experience the day as a whole,
the Jamaican food that was served must be discussed. For breakfast on Thursday,
the kitchen served scrambled eggs with onion and chives. This has been served
before and seems to be as popular a food for Jamaicans as in America. Lunch was
a first timer, a concoction of franks and beans, but with a twist. The sauce
was real sweet and not thick as is typically served in America. Corn fritters
and corn bread with raisins were the carbohydrate chosen as company. The
hotdogs used for our meal were much softer than I’ve grown used to, but the
flavor was about the same. The dinner was one of the greatest so far. There is
a Jamaican potato cheese dish that’s much creamier than mashed potatoes and
much better. This marvel of nutrition was served with typical chicken stir-fry,
AND roast pork that was stuffed with herbs, roasted, and then sliced. You can
assume this was a big hit among the guests here at the lab.  Friday morning breakfast was a favorite of mine,
but doesn’t seem as popular among the less adventurous. The protein source is a
salted fish that seems to be pan fried with vegetables and lots of onions.  This is served with a small roll and a spinach
onion dish (Note: It was somehow not unusual eating these for breakfast) A
first for the group was what the head chef called a “real Jamaican breakfast”: a
coconut peanut porridge that got better with every bite.

– Jason

15 Jan AM – Here Comes the Sun, Do Do Do Do

This morning, I was not sure what to expect given the recent
rain, and I was not sure how to follow up yesterday’s exciting trip to Ocho
Rios. Then, mid morning, the sun came out!! With that, we all gravitated
towards the dock to lounge, photograph, snorkel, read, do handstands, and get
hit with awkward patchy sunburns.


Then we went through a rigorous academic review with our
Professors and TA to finalize our research proposals. Each of us had to stand
before them; blind folded on a balancing beam while being sprayed with cold
water as they fired countless inquiries at us concerning our materials and
methods [Ed: This is not how we remember the meetings occurring.]. If I try to recount the details, it is just a blur.


My partner Rachel and I have decided to study water
circulation and coral bleaching. We started today by setting plaster in ice
cube trays to harden and dry over night. These cubes will be secured at each of
our sites. How much the cube dissolves will give us a measure of the current’s
speed and direction. At these sites, which vary in depth and wave action, we
will observe the healthy and unhealthy coral.


In the afternoon, Dive Master Anthony took me and 3 other “Divers
in Training” out for some diving. We entered the water by sitting on the side
of the boat and carrying out the roll backwards technique, and my initial
thoughts were “You want me to do what??!” But, of course, it worked. 


I only needed to do 1 exercise, (I completed the Confined
Water Portion in NY) so while the other DITs worked on exercises, I got to hang
out. It was mind blowing for me to have my face inches from the sandy bottom
and not worry about coming up for air. Within seconds of being submerged I saw
a Lesser Electric Eel rippling along. The deeper I sank and the stiller I
became, the more I noticed. I saw gobies and slugs all over the place.


Then a ­­­­Beaugregory Juvenile popped up from some patchy
algae, looked at me, and darted back into his shelter. Then, zoom, he
reappeared. He would face me, turn his side to me, swim an inch, look at me,
tilt his head, turn, and swim another inch. This went on for a few minutes. He
had the cutest face and then his friend showed up and they were both making the
same playful and curious gestures at me.


~Leech Headshield Slug (Chelidonura
scanning the bottom ~

 Megan_cute fish

~The cutest Beaugregory Juvenile (Stegastes leucostictus) in the world~


~We met Barry at the Straw Market in Ocho Rios and he has
the longest dreds in the entire place~


Overall, Jamaica rules and I am thoroughly enjoying my first
marine science course, feelin’ alright, workin’ on my wet suit tan, enjoying
traditional meals, and listenin’ to Bob. Winter has never been this tropical.