20 Jan AM – Sea Turtle in Flight, Morning Delight

So our two and a half week stay at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab is coming to an end. It started with a frantic pace of lectures, some of which I was fortunate enough to present to the students. We tried to squeeze a large amount of info on tropical marine ecology into 4.5 days. The trip continued by then delving immediately into research. Every morning (very, very early in the morning), a team of us would head out to do some dives at various sites along the reef tract. We were helping graduate student, guest lecturer, and sponge extraordinaire, Amber Stubler, conduct some of her field research. In the afternoon, I found myself working with many of the students, helping them trouble-shoot their projects.

This has been the pace for the last week and a half, with the exception of a few weather days. (The weather has been beautiful, no rain, only “sky juice,” although we did have a couple days that were very windy so we were unable to head out to dive). One group in particular I have been working with, Kevin and Gary, were conducting a pretty interesting seagrass herbivory experiment, examining the impacts of nutrients and spatial setting on rates of herbivory. So I did a lot of diving with them in the lagoon. We also tried some other things – a fertilization experiment, measuring leaf toughness, and estimating grazing via shoot counts – so I am really looking forward to their presentation tonight. In fact, I am looking forward to all the student presentations tonight, since we had some very interesting projects conducted (stay tuned for those).

Another research project I was involved in was basically an extension of surveys conducted in the 1990s of coral cover, macroalgal cover, and sea urchin density, with some pretty interesting results! Luckily, it wasn’t all work. We went on two field trips, one to Dunn’s River Falls (which was awesome) and then Ocho Rios, a pretty interesting port city, where many cruise ships land with lots of touristy things to do. Then yesterday, we headed to Green Grotto, which is series of caves along the north shore of Jamaica, not far from the marine lab. The caves were awesome – many really cool rock formations, bats flying and hanging around, and a subterranean lake. Then we headed to the Ultimate Jerk for dinner, which was also fun. I had a half pound of jerk (read: spicy) chicken, with rice and beans, although in retrospect, I probably should have just went for the ¼ lb piece. I’ll remember that for next time. I was also able to go on a handful of fun dives, a few to Rio Bueno, some just on the Discovery Bay fore-reef and one at a site called Dairy Bull, where I could just “mosey” around, snapping photos and looking for shells. Today was the last day of diving, so a small group of us headed out to Rio Bueno at 7am. Good thing too, because no sooner were we in the water than we saw a school of jacks and a sea turtle. Now, I have been lucky enough to SCUBA at some very cool places, but I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a turtle, and today I got a few good pictures of it. That was worth the 6:30 am alarm! Also saw some invasive lionfish, anemone shrimp, and collected some more shells. All in all, an amazing end to a very good trip (although I think I am ready to head home!)

Sea Turtle
The sea turtle we saw on our last dive at Rio Bueno.

School of jacks.

Anemone Shrimp
Tiny anemone shrimp hanging out amongst the tentacles.

John Carroll

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