17 Jan PM1 – Rain and Fish

Even in the rain, the class continues.

I only arrived in Jamaica a few days ago and I already feel like I've accomplished a lot.  There are a lot of aspects to this class.  We snorkel a few times a day, making observations and collecting species, then we learn in the classroom, too. We are always busy! 

One of many fish seen in the Bay.

On the first day in Discovery Bay, I was amazed at the number and diversity of fish.  But I think the most amazing thing I saw was the Sharptail Eel (Myrichthys breviceps).  I had never seen an eel so close!  Of course, it kind of scared me a little, but I think that was mostly because it was unexpected.  I managed to get one picture, but then it slithered away through a crevice in the coral.  And for the past few days, I've been trying to balance the bookwork and the fieldwork.  It's a little confusing to try and remember all the work that needs to be done and all the names that need to be learned, but the longer we're here, the more organized it becomes.

This is my new BFF: Elliot the Eel. Also in the picture, a sea hare.

My favorite thing about this class is that we get to see these animals up close and personal.  It helps me learn their names much better than looking at them in a book.  Plus, I'm starting to get really good at snorkeling!  It's also really nice to be away from the tourist attractions in Jamaica.  I like traveling to places that are eco-friendly.


– Jenna

17 Jan AM – The Wild Comes Out At Night

When I arrived in Jamaica three days ago I didn't really know how high to set my expectations, but I soon found out that they were not nearly high enough. Jan14th was my first day in Jamaica and my expectations were met with a group snorkel, which led me to see some elegant fish, coral and a variety of algae. It wasn't until last night that I made my way into the water for a night snorkel, which led me to see some unimaginable creatures that would go beyond my expectations. On last night's snorkel it was just me and my flashlight against the unknowns of the water. First jumping in it was mysterious because I could only see so far infront of me and everything else was dark. It wasn't until I started swimming out that I would realize that the water is a totally different place at night. My first spotting of the night was a pair of yellow stingray.

Aron_yellowtail stingray

Yellow sting ray exploring the unknown waters.

After following the one of the sting rays for a few minutes it led me to my next amazing discovery, a Peacock Flounder. Thankfully I was low enough to the bottom from following the sting ray to see a strange patern in the sand that got me curious enough to touch it. Once I poked this outlining in the sand it jumped out and swam showing its true self, a Peacock Flounder. After discovering these two species I really didn't know what more to expect so I continued on this mini-adventure only to find two crabs mating. This trip has really opened my eyes to the world and all of its inhabitants and I am glad to say that it is only day four of our trip which still leaves eleven more days and ten more nights with the WILD.

Aron_peackock flounder

The Peacock Flounder I stumbled upon on my first night snorkel.

– Aron


16 Jan PM – Simply Fascinating

Alas, a getaway from the snow that has been dumped on us. During my second day here in Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, my day was quite interesting. To start off the day, a group of students and I went snorkeling and observed parts of the bay and everything that we have seen underwater. As we all familiarized ourselves and became comfortable with the different areas in the water, we divided into groups where the certified divers and snorkelers went their own separate way to collect different animals and plants. Most of my time spent was in this area …

Seargant major

Mangrove: Mangrove. A variety of different fishes were seen here.


While I was snorkeling around this area, I was fascinated by the diversity of fishes. The fishes that I’ve seen includes the Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda), which was relatively large in size and was of a sparkling silver color (I cannot lie, I was pretty intimidated by it because it was motionless and stared at me, waiting for me to move). Below is a photo that my buddy Jell-O Jenna was able to capture of the second barracuda that we saw:


Barracuda final

Barracuda: Photo captured by Jenna. I wasn’t able to capture the first, so this is a photo of the second one that I saw.


In addition to, I was able to see a few dusky damselfishes, a squirrelfish, and some blueheads that I wish I was able to catch


Bluehead: One of the very few blueheads my buddy was able to snap a photo of.


In addition to, there was an abundance of Donky Dung Sea Cucumber scattered all around the shallow area as well as the deeper end of the bay. The Donky Dung Sea Cucumber was actually one of the invertebrates that my buddy and I were able to capture for our collections. The West Indian Sea Egg (Tripneustes ventricosus) was also another invert that I saw a lot of, but was only found in the deeper area of the bay. One thing that interests me the most about this sea egg is that it looks like something you wouldn’t want to touch because of its spines that it is covered with, but it actually doesn’t hurt when you pick it up. The Rock Boring Urchin was another invert that I saw and collected that was sheltered in what looked like a Stocky Cerith. A peacock flounder was also in sight when I was snorkeling in the deeper area and what’s interesting about this fish is that it is camouflaged really well with the sand. The downside to that is I couldn’t really see the beautiful “peacock” design. At night, students went out to check out some fishes that were not seen much during the day, such as the pufferfish, balloonfish and the lizardfish. The diademas were also seen at night but was much larger in size as compared to when I saw them during the day. My hope throughout this trip is to see at least one seaturtle.


I guess that’s it for today. Time to learn more about coral reefs!

– Paulie





16 Jan AM – Rain Rain Go Away

Matthew_Even on rainy days, It's still paradise
Even on rainy days, it's still  paradise.

Well, for most of us it is day two in paradise. I was one of the lucky few who were able to fly out during the storm and make it to Jamaica on Wednesday, and now that the rest of the class is here, any jitters have faded for most of us. The class is small, and we mesh well, as we found out last night we are all either biology, marine science, or environmental studies majors, so we all have something in common. Our collection tank is becoming quite full. We have a lot of invertebrates like queen conch and sea cucumbers, as well as about half a dozen fish (mostly dusty damsels). 

Matthew_Here are a few of the specimens we caught during the night snorkle
Here are a few specimens that we caught during our night snorkel.

Last night’s late night collection proved to be a huge success, I caught an octopus that was out foraging in a broken conch shell. As soon as I saw it, it turned its chromatophores bright red. While it was under observation, (by which I mean while I was waiting for three hours to come out of the shell it was hiding in) it had turned a magnificent blue. Of course, its will-power won over my need to sleep and I had to release it before it came out. Octopi are extremely smart and because of this, if it was left in the wetlab, it would have escaped and its fate would have been unknown.

Matthew_The blue thing with the dark spot in the middle is the eye of the octopus peering out of the conch shell
The blue thing with the dark spot in the middle is the eye of the octopus.

Today was our second collection, and my partner Jake and I went out for about an hour snorkeling in the rain. (Yes it does rain in paradise, but it’s a lot better than the white stuff.) We tried to get a lizard fish and a balloon fish, but ended up with some more damsels, two anemones, and lots and lots of plants (they are slightly easier to catch as they lack the ability to run away.) On a side note, there are also a few kittens that live around the compound, and as I type this blog, one of them has made its way into our room and is begging for attention. The only down side of all of this fun, is that every day we grow and learn, brings us another day closer to the end of the course. But until the last day, this truly is a great experience.


Matthew_This is our collection tank
This is our collection tank.

-Matthew J.

15 Jan PM – Discovery in the Bay

Today was the first day of my aquatic adventures here in Jamaica. It all seemed very intimidating at first with warning coming from our professors, “touching is the root of all evil”. But even that couldn’t restrain my restless curiosity for experiencing everything the coral reefs of Discovery Bay had to offer. As I traveled down to the docks with my group I couldn’t help but look out to the ocean and feel like the luckiest person on earth. The hot weather had guaranteed my destination for the day. My first trip out into the crystal clear waters had me mesmerized by the abundance of life that could be found everywhere on the sea floor.


A hidden point in Discovery Bay.

The most plentiful of the organisms was the Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber, a long brown invertebrate deserving of its name. Other creatures like the West Indian Sea Egg and the Long Spined Sea Urchin could be found everywhere hiding in coral knolls and crevices. I spotted a few squirrel fish and bicolor damselfish seeking shelter in the some of the Staghorn Coral as well as French Grunt and occasionally a Needlefish and Balloon Fish. The most impressive find of my watery escapade was a sizable Lizardfish lying prone in Seagrass as I was SCUBA diving. The coloration was absolutely gorgeous and it didn’t budge even though I was less than a meter from it.


The wildlife is teeming both at sea and on land.

The most exciting experience I had was diving at night after our last class. It was a bit scary at first not knowing what lurked in the dark so I and a few others that went stayed close to the docks. After a short while our confidence returned and we began swimming further away. It was incredible how much the environment changes over night compared to the day. I collected many samples of fish thanks to the help of my classmates and established a diverse tank of which I am very proud of. I’m sure it’s not the last of the truly exciting experience I’m going to have here in Jamaica.

– Brooks


15 Jan AM – Something really cool

Sitting outside on the balcony to my room, enjoying the cool Jamaican night breeze blowing in off the gently rolling water of Discovery Bay. Just returned from a snorkel under the stars. I can see Orion tonight.


Thanks to the snowstorm in NY, we all arrived here at different times yesterday. From as early as 9:30am to nearly midnight. But I have already heard a few say, “Remember yesterday when you saw that (insert cool looking marine critter here)!”, when they mean this morning. We are a small group and a busy group and we’re settling in quickly to make the most of this Caribbean experience. Nothing like a subtropical climate and bountiful amounts Jamaican cooking to make one forget the 2 hours they spent excavating their car from the snow the day before.

Hazel Picture 1

Morning view from the dock at Discovery Bay Marine Lab.


Well since I was one of those who raised my hand in class in response to the question, “Who saw something really cool today?” I have been elected to write one of the first 2 blog entries.

Hazel Picture 2

The colorful flesh and eyes in the center belong to the octopus Matt caught during the night snorkel.

I think everyone probably could have raised their hand to that question. It depends on perspective. But, I did see some pretty cool stuff. During the morning snorkel I saw a southern stingray, lots of sea urchins and donkey dung sea cucumbers (I am not an expert on animal droppings, but yes, they do in fact look like some kind of dung). And I finally discovered my first octopus in the wild! It was just nestled into a valley in the coral about a foot and a half from my face, its evolutionarily humanesque eyes staring up at me. Unfortunately I did not bring my underwater camera on that trip and got so excited when I saw it that I looked up to see who else I could show it to. When I looked back down the current had moved me just enough that I lost it. I did, however, get a picture of an octopus that Matt found and captured on our night dive. On the way back to the dock we came upon a school of cuttlefish. They seemed to have arranged themselves from largest to smallest and the big one in the front turned around backwards from time to time, as if to check on the youngsters.


Later in the day, the certified divers went out with the dive safety officer to demonstrate our aquatic skills. Despite being nervous to dive with no experience since my certification in August, the lull of the environment underneath the surface calmed me. I saw a lizard fish and yellow sting ray.

Hazel Picture 3

Lizardfish that Brooks, Megan, and I caught at night.

After our evening lecture a few of us (Brooks, Matt, Megan, and I) went for a night dive [snorkel]. The Long-spined sea urchins (Diadema antilarum) were out, along with lots of other fish, anemones, urchins, brittle stars, sea slugs, balloonfish, squirrel fish, and of course our friendly donkey dung. It involved some solid teamwork but, we managed to catch some lizard fish and puffer fish to bring back to our collection tanks in the lab. I found 2 sea slugs one on top of the other, perhaps mating? When I gathered them ever so gently to bring back inside they inked, sending a cloud of beautiful magenta into the water. When I checked on them in the lab they were still quite drawn to one another.

Hazel Picture 4

In order from left to right: Donkey Dung Sea Cumcumber (Holothuria mexicana), Spotted Sea Hare (Aplysia dactylomela), and West Indian Sea Egg (Tripneustes ventricosus).

I better sign off now and get some sleep. Breakfast at 7:30am. Yum! Goodnight from Jamaica.


Habenero Hazel Wodehouse


14 January – We have arrived !

We left this:


and are now here:


So two professors, one teaching assistant, and 13 Stony Brook undergraduates managed to escape the snow-covered landscape of Long Island (albeit a day late) and have safely arrived (yesterday) here at the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory in Jamaica.  The students will be posting multiple blog posts each day (starting tomorrow) but right now they're trying to catch their breath after: an introduction the lab, a review of the class syllabus, two lectures, our first snorkel trip in the Bay (I saw a spotted eagle ray!), some tasty meals, the beginning of dive training and the start of their invertebrate, plant, and animal collections.

It's getting late so I'm going to head for bed soon. Stay tuned for further updates.

Professor Warren