15 Jan – Helping out our Caribbean neighbors

It's very easy to become a bit isolated and narrow-minded (research, corals, snorkel, repeat) during this course, however the earthquake in Haiti that occurred this week has reminded all of us how fortunate we are to be able to visit and experience a place like Discovery Bay Marine Lab to learn and work during our winter break from school. Several of us were in the water replacing coral settlement plates when the quake occurred (we didn't hear/see/feel it at all) and we're only ~ 200 miles from the epicenter (i.e. about two lengths of Long Island away), so the nearness of the event is particularly striking.  In our lectures, we'd discussed the location of seismic events in and around the Caribbean plate and how that affects the formation of reefs (Darwin's subsidence theory), but we didn't realize there would be a dramatic demonstration of those geologic processes while we were here.

In conjunction with the staff and personnel here at Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, we (the MAR 388 class) are putting together a donation of money and supplies to be sent to Haiti to help with the relief and recovery efforts. The faculty will be matching whatever money the students donate and we hope that our contribution can make a small positive difference in the recovery effort.

Stony Brook University has an informational site listing several ways that you can donate to help with the relief efforts and we encourage anyone reading this blog to make a donation to their preferred charity.

– Profs. Warren and Peterson

14 Jan PM – Did anyone else have caramel in their brownies?

First day of
freedom.  We’ve been in “tropical
paradise” for a few days now and enjoying the beautiful flora and fauna in the
water, but today was the first day of stress-free life – although maybe the
last because the work has started again already.

Rivers Falls was awesome – I’ve never done a waterfall climb that was actually
in the water the whole way though.  It
was nerve-wracking at times with the algae and the gushing water and the
dangerous hand-holding tourists – funny how we don’t call ourselves tourists,
although we totally are.  The climb was
fun and refreshing.  It was the first time
this trip that I wasn’t crying while being bombarded by cold freshwater.


Dunn's Falls group pic

Top of the falls.

Ocho Rios –
local food, straw market, and chaotic streets. 
All good fun.

 Deb and Allegra eating chicken and rice

We had
chicken and rice – Jamaican style.

Deb with delicious smoothie

This place had the most delicious smoothies in the world.

Jamaica has
so far been a surprise.  It’s my first
real interaction with a large group of people all interested in marine biology
and the first time I’ve been told to touch everything in the water.  I’ve been taking full advantage of that,
poking a balloon fish to make it puff up, playing with anemones, and
(carefully) using things to get away from the ridiculously menacing Diadema.

The best
game yet: telling stories Brad-style.

Even when
Jamaica is not at its best, it’s in full glory. 
Reef damage, scared fish, rainy days, cold showers, and college’s
version of sleep-away still make for the best week.  Crossed fingers for the little time left
before the drudgery of spring semester and huge boring lectures [Ed: except for Prof. Peterson and Warren's courses] come.

– Sarah S.

14 Jan – Feelin Good Mon

The weather forecast  for today was partially cloudy, and it was
totally cloudy and rained on and off for most of the day.  But did we care? NO  we were off to Dunn’s River Falls and Ocho
Rios.  We took a break from our  lectures and 
tests and  headed off to have some
fun.  We boarded our taxis at 9 am in
anticipation of our day off, which I might add, was well deserved and worth
waiting for. 

     I think that all
of us made it up the falls at least once, I know that there were some brave,
strong souls that did the falls 2-3 times. 
I was just happy to reach the top once.  
With Professor Warren  covering
the first half of the climbers and Professor 
Peterson covering the rear, we couldn’t fail, fall maybe, but not fail.  After the falls we headed into Ocho Rios for
some lunch and shopping.  By 4 pm  we again boarded our taxis and headed back to
Discovery Bay, exchanging stories in the ride home of triumphs and bruised
appendages!    It was great to have some fun.

     Back at Discovery
Bay, our research proposals are due today, so we are all busy working on our
research projects which will start today and continue until we head home.   Great minds at work.  More to come about our days at Discovery bay,
join us again tomorrow for an update.

– Jean


After a stressful day of studying and countless exams [Ed: Um, there were only 2.], the professors informed everyone that we would all be rewarded with our first field trip. The day began with an 8 am wakeup call from the symphony of my roommates’ alarms, which was an early start to a very adventurous day. Today was our first excursion to Dunn’s River Falls and Ocho Rios, both of which were spectacular. Dunn’s River Falls had a cascading flow of water down a crevice filled mountain. The climb was invigorating, the water was bitter, and I am sure I will be waking up with countless bruises on my legs tomorrow morning. Let’s just say that one should search the water for all rocks before stepping in, especially when there is an entire tour group behind you.

    Next, the city of Ocho Rios was explored. Groups were made, and everyone ventured off, mostly to eat and rummage around the shops. I first ventured to the bank to switch American money in for Jamaican money. This was an experience in itself, the bank was very different and the system took quite some time. But, after the money was received, I was off to find food! My small group consisted of Kayla, Melanie, Jean, and myself. We were shortly found by other classmates at the crowded restaurant, Margaritaville, where loud music and dancing was the major focus. A large cruise ship was stationed right off the beach, next to the restaurant, and the passengers put on quite a talent show for all to see. Some colorful acts caught my eye, including some outrageous moves from an older gentleman who wasn’t afraid to ‘shake his groove thing’ to some reggae music, and the restaurant employees didn’t seem to mind his alluring bum shaking either. Lastly, I ended my trip to Ocho Rios with some ice cream; I consumed a delicious pistachio and chocolate mass with hot fudge, and to top it all off, my experience would not have been complete without the interesting comments and remarks made by locals. I somehow got talked into receiving a hair braiding; where the woman basically told me that I needed it, and without time for me to say no thank you, she began her craft. I figured that I was stuck paying for one braid by that. After this experience I am only looking forward to the upcoming excursions we have in store, as well as the fact that our projects at Discovery Bay Marine Lab are starting very soon.  

-Nicole Laible

Blog photo #2
Random building in Ocho Rios. 

13 Jan AM – Finally time to relax

It doesn’t matter where you are on the globe when you’re within twenty four hours of taking an exam, unless you’re in Jamaica. While there was a general level of stress residing within my colleagues and I, we all still had a sense of morale and drive to get some last minute cramming in before our identification and course examination on Tuesday. Lucky enough for me I was able to snap some quick photos of a pelican that landed at the end of the lab’s jetty while I was wracking my brain with Latin names of tropical fish. Originally I felt a bit overwhelmed and intimidated since this is my first marine science course, but I really feel like I’ve got a pretty firm grasp on the material. All of the help I’ve gotten from my new Stony Brook friends [Ed: Ian's joining us from one of the other SUNY campuses, Binghamton University] has made it much easier to adjust to course work outside of my regular academic interests (micro-biology).

Once the test was over we were all finally able to relax again, as highly caffeinated as most of us were, residual from our evening and morning study sessions. To say we all had merely a sigh of relief would be a severe understatement. In light of this we were finally able to have a one hundred percent completely stress free day, and only worry about planning out our proposals for our research projects while we scaled the rapids of a waterfall and explored the city of Ocho Rios. Getting to briefly experience the life in a Jamaican city first hand was without a doubt one of the most interesting and eye opening experiences of the trip for me so far. The locals were all really nice and a store keeper that I spoke with seemed to be sincerely interested in my research ambitions. With a great locally cooked meal, live band, and the hustle and bustle of the streets of Ocho Rios lumped on top of a day of climbing waterfalls I was reminded why I started pestering professors Warren and Peterson back in August about applying for this program. In terms of the research project I don’t have a concrete idea of what I’d like to do as of yet, but I’m pretty sure I want it to involve Diadema antillarum.

– Ian


A pelican resting on the jetty near the docks of Discovery Bay Marine Lab.


One of the main streets of Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

13 Jan AM – We’re off to see the sites…

No blog posts this morning as we're enjoying a class field trip to celebrate the end of the lectures and the exam. We're hiking up Dunn's River Falls and then enjoying a trip to the town of Ocho Rios. Several of  us were out in the water today diving for Amber Stubler's thesis research, but we did not notice any tsunami-like waves from the earthquake in Haiti while underwater.  More posts either later tonight or tomorrow morning.

11 Jan PM – Last minute studying

Yesterday, the weather didn’t start
out as well as everyone would have liked it to. 
It was windy and cloudy out and the water did not have good
visibility.  After going to the morning
lecture, my group and I worked on identifying our organisms in the wet
lab.  A couple of hours later, the sun
peeked out through the clouds and the wind had calmed down.  It was beautiful out, but only for a short
time.  After working on the collection, I
went for a quick snorkel before the next lecture. 


first thing I saw shortly after entering the water was a barracuda.  I’ve never seen a barracuda before, it was
silver with its torpedo-like body form. 
The barracuda is attracted to shiny objects and its body form is
essential for its darting speeds.  I was
following it around for a while, and it was a great experience.  After our afternoon lecture, it was also a
learning experience when my group and I identified it by scientific name.  I am learning something new every day of this
trip, and every day is a different experience. 
I hope the weather holds up for the rest of the trip, and that the sun
comes out for a longer time and more often.


-Kayla Kraker

Kayla-barracuda picture blog #1
A barracuda.

11 Jan AM – Studying in Jamaica

Learning is what we have been doing
these past few days. With the test on Tuesday and ID presentations also due on
Tuesday, everybody has been busy doing something. Not to mention all the rain
we are getting, everybody seems like they can’t wait till lectures are over and
the sun finally comes out. It seems like here in Jamaica, the days are long and
never ending. For our wet lab collections, my group has collected a lot of cool
things like sea urchins, algae, and a bunch of snails. One thing that we just
added to our collection on Monday was the upside down jellyfish that we
spotted. I had to use my fin to sweep the jellyfish into the bag while my
partner collected it, as we were both afraid that the jellyfish would sting
us.  The other day my partner and I saw a
balloon fish and failed to catch it with our fin-scoop technique. No matter
what we did the very slow balloon fish was uncatchable.

            Other than
the 9 mosquito bites I got, the burn/sting that I got from snorkeling, and the
cold showers, I think I am starting to adapt to Jamaica. I can’t wait till I
get this test over with and start with the research project and visit other areas
of Jamaica. The only thing I have to do now is to finish studying a bunch of
Latin names for the test, which is going to drive me nuts.


Lawremce Balloon fish.jpg
This was the fish that we were
trying to catch for like 20 minutes. I tried hitting it with my fins but it
never worked.

Lawrence Jelly fish
This was the jelly fish that we
caught using the fin-scoop technique.

10 Jan PM – Gray and rain continues

crashing, sky an ugly gray color, raining mostly nonstop, winds that just made
it worse….when you put this all together it basically means no snorkeling.
Since we really couldn’t go into the water we had to settle with studying most
of the day. Sitting in class; learning more about the coral reefs, the animals
that live in them, the history of Jamaica, and so much more. Let’s just say
that we covered a lot of material.


The first time I went into the water
I found a conch shell in pretty good condition I looked inside the shell and
didn’t see anything in it, but when I got back to the dock something poked my
finger. Looking inside the shell again, more carefully, I saw a couple of
spinney legs sticking out of the shell. It was a type of Brittle Star called
Blunt-Spined Brittle Star. So, guess what! Today one of the Brittle Stars came
out and I found it hiding in the corner of the wet lab table that my group was
using. It was so cool! I picked it up and it felt like there where little blunt
needles walking across my hand. The Blunt-Spined Brittle Star has a ton of
these little blunt needles coming off its legs and it’s a light dark brown
color with a pale stripe down the middle of each legs. The thing that I thought
was cool was that the center of it was really soft and squishy. I can’t wait
for the other Brittle Star to come out of the shell.


Even though I didn’t get to go into
the water a few people did and they saw a lot of really cool things. Some
people saw a Lion fish, Barracuda, Upside Down Jellyfish, and a Balloon Fish.
Can’t wait for the weather to get better so I can get back into the water!

– Sarah D.

Blunt-spined brittle star

Banded brittle star.

10 Jan AM – A Rainy day in Paradise

Today I woke up to an unfamiliar
sound. It was rain, and tons of it. I wasn’t too hungry so I decided to skip
breakfast and get some extra rest because we were going to have an
unprecedented 4 lectures today. After our first lecture at 9am we broke up into
teams to compete at naming some of the organisms found at the reef. The game
was lots of fun but very intense, luckily my team was able to come out on top
we were told that later on we would receive a mysterious prize. After the game
we had our second lecture of the day followed by a delicious spaghetti and
meatsauce lunch.

 After Lunch we had
about 3 hours until our next lecture, like many of my classmates I decided to
take this time to study for our upcoming test since the weather had made the
water a bit murky and choppy. Despite the less than ideal condition a few brave
souls did chose to venture out in the name of science, I decided to stay at the
dock where I found a large sea urchin. At 4pm we headed to our third lecture of
the day and then it was off to dinner where we learned that for our stellar
performance earlier we would be granted the honor to be first up for dinner
which was mashed potatoes and some delicious shrimp. After dinner I dragged
myself to our fourth and final lecture of the day and then I used the rest of
the night to study until I fell asleep. Despite the rain we were still able to
have a very productive day here in Jamaica; hopefully tomorrow will bring some
good weather so we can all get back in the water.

– Nick

Nick_A Sea urchin we found at the dock
A beautiful Sea Urchin we found down by the dock (we put him back)