20 Jan AM – Pinnacle

Although it’s been only a mere four days since our arrival here in Jamaica, project ideas have been discussed and developed—research set in motion. Proposals have been written on topics ranging from sponge diversity and coral diseases to inking of spotted-sea hares (Aplysia dactylomela) and the notoriously aggressive Dusky damselfish.

1_sneak attacking and snapping a shot of a Dusky Damselfish (Stegastes adustus)

Sneak Attack! Snapping a photo of a Dusky damselfish (Stegastes adustus)

After a whirlwind of lectures on different types of algae (Rhodophyta, Chlorophyta, Phaeophyta, and Turf Algae), ecology, oceanography , reef inverts, tropical fish, sponges, coral (Phylum Echinodermata, Class astroidea), global warming, and history of Jamaica’s reefs in the past four days, we’ve finally made it through ‘spurs’ of stomach squeezing studying. We’ve learned the secret behind Wendy’s mouth-watering thick milk shakes lies in *Carrageenan, a thickening substance derived from some of the oldest eukaryotes in the world: red algae aka Rhodophyta. We’ve made our collection presentation powerpoints. We’ve taken our first, and last exam-practical. We’ve cleared out our wet lab species collection tank.

We’ve cleared our desks of index cards, highlighters, and species identification books.

2_effects of captivity
(left) Our festering long spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum) after four days in our wet lab collection.

(right) After studying over 987 lecture slides in four days

Just as the King Helmet (Crassis tuberosa), Variegated Sea Urchin (Lytechinus variegates), Sea Cucumber (Holothuria mexicana), Indian Sea Egg (Tripneustes ventricosus), and Common Comet Star (Linckia guildingii) anxiously await escape from the muted halls and back into Discovery Bay, as do we.

3_Great Escape 'Mon

Great Escape ‘Mon: (top left clockwise) King Helmet (Crassis tuberosa) snacking on a Variegated Sea Urchin (Lytechinus variegates), Sea Cucumber (Holothuria mexicana), Indian Sea Egg (Tripneustes ventricosus), and Common Comet Star (Linckia guildingii).

We release them in hopes that they will recover much like we had after our study escapades (ie. volleyball). The sun is shining, the waters are calm, and the tide is low.

4_Discovery Bay shallow reef 'Atlantis'

Shallow reefs of Discovery Bay: mythical mini realm of ‘Atlantis’

—Mei sigining and diving off into the marine world, a whole new world—waiting and beckoning our attention, curosity, and research.

*side note: [This phycocolloid Carrageenan, specifically found in the red algae species called Eucheuma cottonii and Eucheuma spinosum, is not only used in ice cream, pudding, and food, but toothpaste as well. Some other phycocolloids from red algae include agar, which can surprisingly cost up to $1200 per ton.]


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