16 Jan AM – Moving Right Along

Our stay here in Jamaica is now more than halfway over… I am not very excited about this, I wish I could stay here forever it is such a beautiful country. Our projects have been coming along nicely with some occasional failures… but hey, a wise man once said “success is measured by the number of failures” so I think we’re doing alright.

Nicole and I have been going out twice every day to collect brittle stars for our project. We then measure them and calculate their velocity which allows us to see if there is any correlation between velocity and predation, so far no leads on whether there is any correlation… but we will continue to test.

Banded arm
A banded-arm brittle star.

As I do my own project with Nicole I also help Celeste and Fardina collect jellyfish for their project. You would think this is easy… but it’s not. The only good place to find them is in the mangrove, which is hard to access at low tide, so we stick to the lagoon and search the sand flats. The first few days we found some in the flats and we went down and picked them up, but getting them in the collection bag is quite difficult and it resulted in getting stung by them… everywhere.

Cassiopia frondosa
An upsidedown jellyfish (Cassiopia frondosa).

1/13/12 We woke at the crack of dawn and headed for Rio Bueno, don’t ask me why it’s called Rio because I did NOT see a river anywhere… [Ed: There was a river there.] however it was quite early and maybe I just missed it or something. However, Rio Bueno was a beautiful place, a bunch of us snorkeled while the rest went diving. It was about 20 feet deep or so (again, I couldn’t tell) down to the reef and there were defined grooves and spurs along the reef. These grooves and spurs allow for the displacement of water relieving the energy from the corals. As we swam away from the boat we came upon a wall, this is where the water depth went from roughly 20ft to about a million, yes I’m exaggerating but it was really deep and I couldn’t see the bottom. This was awesome, there were schools of little blue fish swimming everywhere and the water seemed to go on forever. It was both an eerie and exhilarating feeling.

So, about the food here at Discovery Bay Marine Lab. It. Is. Fantastic. I’ve never eaten so much in my life! I used to be such a picky eater but being here and just allowing myself to try everything, I realized, well, I love everything! It is so much richer and fresher than food back in the US, I’m really going to miss this when we leave.

Celeste and I have also had a few deep conversations about the universe while here at Discovery Bay. We lay out after dark and look up at the stars and try to figure out the constellations as well as talk about life and what else is out there. Very deep stuff.

Star gazing
Celeste and I laying down.

Now that I have written a completely random post… I am going to go be productive and go out snorkeling for a bit!  

- Steph Mincieli

15 Jan PM – Just Another Day in Jamaica

Today is our twelfth day staying at Discovery Bay and so far it has been amazing. These past couple of days have by far been my favorite. Going to Ocho Rios was amazing. I was able to do some haggling at the straw market and get a Jamaican soccer ball for almost half the original price. This was probably the best decision I could have made because we have definitely put it to good use. We have played numerous games of volleyball soccer with it. I say volleyball soccer because some of us can’t play volleyball and use our feet to return serves instead of our hands. This has definitely led to some interesting games.

Soccer ball
Best buy at the straw market.

I’m also really glad that there are other people here who will go running and workout with me. It is awesome to have a running partner and other people to do intense ab workouts with. I never thought I would come to Jamaica and want to work out for fun but there isn’t much to do at night in between working on my project and it is a good way to burn off all the amazing food the kitchen ladies have been cooking. They definitely have a special talent for preparing the locally caught lionfish and the shrimp last night was amazing!!

Joe’s lionfish dinner.

The most eventful night so far was 2 nights ago when Mike and Chris decided they were going to try to catch crabs and other random marine organisms hanging out on the rocks of the peninsula. Watching Mike hang off the rock trying to catch a crab while Chris held onto his ankles so he wouldn’t fall into the lagoon was hysterical. Hearing Chris scream like a girl when something crawled across his foot was also extremely amusing.

On a mission to catch crabs.

Steph and I are currently sitting in the cafeteria eating French toast, which is also amazing, and talking about what we are going to do with our project for today. We have collected 130 brittle stars so far and hope to collect about 70 more today. If anyone from our class is reading this we need banded-arm brittle stars!

Mass of brittle stars
Brittle Star pile up.

– Nicole

15 Jan AM – Reef walls and Research

Photo 1
Leaving for Rio Bueno

Friday morning (boy, who thought it would be Friday again already?) we made a boat trip to Rio Bueno, a nearby harbor, where we got to dive along a reef wall. The water was unusually calm today, so despite the relatively long ride and the fact that most of the class went along nobody seemed to get too sick. While the snorkelers spent time on the service, the divers dropped down to a 60 foot depth, which seemed like nothing due to the clarity of the water, despite visibility reportedly being relatively poor today. We formed a line and took a quick tour of the wall, seeing many of the species of coral and sponges we learned about last week, as well as a few fish rarely seen in the lagoon at Discovery Bay such as groupers. The instructors also caught a few large lionfish with the spear gun, which later became lunch.

Photo 2
Rio Bueno surface

Photo 3
Part of the reef wall from above

Photo 4
Amber hunts the mighty lionfish

Over all the trip was a lot of fun, and definitely one of the more relaxing dives we’ve done so far. We were hoping to see some turtles while we were there, but had no luck in that department today. Hopefully we’ll get some more chances to go out on the boat if the weather stays calm in the mornings. As for the rest of the day, we’ve been hard at work on our research projects. In my case, this means I’m currently due to scrape the algae off some turtle grass to prep it for a grazing experiment. I’m sure there will be plenty more on the research everyone’s doing in the days to come.



14 Jan PM – Everyday I’m Snorkelin’!

Everyday I’m Shufflin’ Snorkelin’!

By Fardina

In the beginning of this trip I couldn’t snorkel even if my life depended on it. I am pleased to now say that I am a confident snorkeler! I did get hit by a long-spined sea urchin (diadema antillarium) on my hand a few days ago and I must admit I am still very apprehensive going into the water by myself but hopefully that fear will subside soon. Other than that I am very happy with the progress that I have made and have gone snorkeling every day.

Yesterday we had a blast as we finally ventured out of Discovery Bay Marine Lab and visited Dunn’s River Falls and the town of Ochos Rios after that. I am not an outdoors type of person and rarely climb anything so at first the falls was a bit scary with all the water gushing down. But pretty soon again with the help with awesome Amber, I got the hang of it and I absolutely had a blast. There were a lot of tourists holding hands which was a little annoying but it was funny to see so many different types of people scramble up the waterfall. The weather was very warm which went great with getting absolutely drenched on the waterfall.

Congratulations! We reached the top!

After that, we were let loose in the town of Ochos Rios. It was pretty cool to go shopping for knick knacks and souvenirs and haggle with the shopkeepers for a good price. Unfortunately Margaritaville was packed but we went to another very busy restaurant and had delicious jerk chicken and a few refreshing drinks.

 Delicious spicy Jerk Chicken at the restaurant.

The colorful straw market.

After we came back from our awesome trip, Celeste and I set up the first part of our experiment which is trying to answer the question, “Under What Conditions do Upside Down Jellyfish Expel their Zooxanthallae?” It’s been pretty hard to even find upside down jellyfish in the water. So far we have six and we hope to find a lot more in the next few days or well be in real trouble with our experiments. Later that night we all sat by the water and got a great view of Eagle Ray jump about 4 feet out of the water! It was just amazing!

Picture 4
Setup of the first part of our experiment

Today morning we woke up bright and early to go snorkeling in Rio Bueno. It was about a 20 minute boat ride away from the Marine Lab. The boat ride was like an amusement ride in itself as it rocked and jumped at high speed and we were covered in water at the end. We probably didn’t get to see as much as the divers but the water was warm and the view of the reef flat beneath us was beautiful as there was very lush coral coverage unlike the water here at Discovery Bay. We all got stung by some phantom jelly fish that we never saw, but nevertheless it was a nice start to the day.


14 Jan AM – Jamaican me crazy!!!

After 8 days of nonstop lectures, identifications, diving, studying and exams, the class was in definite need of some time off. So, Thursday we left the marine lab for a field trip. Our first stop was a waterfall that we spent a couple hours climbing up and down. We had a lot of fun trying to make our way up and down though it was tourist packed and we had to climb the falls weaving in and out of tour groups.


Laura's blog- picture 1
race to the top! (despite what the camera time-stamp says, this was taken in 2012!)

Then we all dried off and changed and headed into Ocho Rios for an afternoon in town. There were 2 cruise ships in port, so the town was pretty busy. After a great lunch we spent the afternoon in the straw market shopping for local stuff then it was back to the marine lab and back to work that evening.

This morning we had some good weather so we went out on a fun dive to a spot called Rio Bueno. It was nice to be on a non-working dive for the morning since most of my dives for the past week have been spent identifying coral species, photographing them and measuring them with tape underwater. It took me a few dives to get a system down juggling a pencil, a clipboard with underwater paper, a measuring tape and camera with only 2 hands. Plus, of course, still monitoring your air, depth, location and navigation so you can make it back to the boat. Then, you are so focused on the small little area that you are working that you don’t even notice all the other cool things around you. When I told my family and friends back home that I was spending January in Jamaica for a class and doing some diving, everyone thought I was on some laid back dive trip, but working underwater is definitely a whole other experience. So, this morning’s dive to Rio Bueno with no extra equipment and no work to do was a nice change. I spent the much of the dive still identifying corals in my head anyhow since this site has far more coral cover than the sites we’ve been working at. Since we were free of work equipment, some of the divers had spear guns and were on the hunt for lionfish (Pterois volitans) . Since lionfish are invasive here, we try to catch them on each dive to help clear them off the reefs. The added bonus is that they make a great lunch! I think we caught 6 or 7 today.

Laura's Blog picture 2
Lionfish- this guy will make a tasty lunch

We ended the dive over some Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) which is not very common here any longer since the reefs are pretty degraded.

Laura's Blog- picture 3
Elkhorn Coral (with Professor Warren in the background)

 - Laura


13 Jan PM – Cold showers aren’t so bad now…


We got to sleep in a bit today with a 9am leaving time. We were off to climb the Dunns River Falls. On the way down to the bottom of the falls you have to walk through mazes of people offering you all kinds of little knick-knacks, for outrageous prices. When we got down to the bottom of the falls it was an amazing site! We all just ran towards it and began to climb. I really enjoyed challenging myself when it came to climbing; my group always took the more difficult side, which was also good because it was less crowded. My group ended up climbing up twice, the second time around we really challenged ourselves. I have all the bruises and scrapes to prove it, but it was definitely the most amazing thing we have done so far. I have never had so much fun.

Celeste Blog 2
This is a picture of one portion of the falls covered in the tourists that we had to get around.

After the falls we got to go to Ochos Rios where we got to do a little shopping. A few of us tried to go to Margaritaville, but it was packed out so we decided to go to this little jerk-chicken place. The food was amazing, but it took forever to get it, so we didn’t get to much shopping time. I will tell you now I am not the most skilled barterer, but some of the people in our group were pros. So we all bought a lot and had an amazing day. My favorite part has yet to come though because it happened later that night when we all decided to go sit by the waterfront and saw an Eagle Ray jump out of the water and swim right in front of us. It was the perfect ending to an amazing day.



Today we started bright and early. We all needed to be on the dock my 7am. Everyone was talking about how sore they were from the previous days adventure. We were on our way out for a trip to Rio Bueno where there is a reef wall for the divers to swim along, like me, and a flat reef for the snorkels to view. We were told that there may be a possibility of a sea turtle sighting, but we weren’t so lucky this time. Either way though I still had so much fun and got to see so much. Plus the boat ride was nice too.



13 Jan AM – What a day…

Don't even know where to start, but I'm going to try with the begging. I woke up early to get in a nice shallow dive in for my Thallassia project with Kevin and John. Getting much more acclimated to the water which is a great change of pace for me. Once we got back in it was time to leave for our trip to Dunn's River Falls and Ocho Rios! I never thought I could have such an amazing time at a waterfall but, never the less, it was a blast. The weather was about 90 degrees and very sunny, and I was surrounded by great people; a good recipe for a memorable day. After running up and down this beautiful river/waterfall we made our way to the city of Ocho Rios, where we were mixed in with the thousands of other tourists from the tremendous cruise ships docked right in the port. Words could not express the fun I, along with many others, had on this outing. Between bartering for little souvenirs, Jamaican food, and the sun shining down, who could ask for a better time?


Everyone cheesing for the camera at Dunn’s River Falls. Get up stand up! YEA MON!

– Gary

12 Jan PM – SCUBA and Ocho Rios

Well it’s been a week now and I find it hard to believe how fast time is passing here. Most certainly though adapting to “Jamaica time” isn’t very hard and I think I have done pretty well adapting. In the past week more than I can even begin to explain has occurred but the most interesting note for me is getting SCUBA certified. I have snorkeled all my life and thought that was pretty cool, but I think getting SCUBA certified was one of the best decisions of my life because that is better than snorkeling in almost every way. Being right there near the bottom with the corals, various fishes like the yellow stingray, squirrelfish, and four-eye butterfly fish, and inverts like the spiny lobster is just outstanding. Being certified will also make my project easier because I will need to be placing tiles on the bottom, and ensure their stability by getting them into the bottom, at depths of 10 feet or more. This is something I can use for the rest of my life and won’t have to renew so it was worth the trouble to go through.

Do I blend in well
An Indigo Hamlet doesn't really blend in well on the open sand.

On another note, our trip to Ocho Rios today was another experience entirely. It was a very good way to get a sense of what locals are like and how much they depend on tourism. It was fun though, because we had some delicious jerk chicken sandwiches, and topped that off with some Jamaican ice cream, which melted immediately, but was very good. Oh yeah, and the best part I almost left out, which was Dunn River Falls! We got to climb a waterfall as many times as we wanted! That was very interesting because the biggest obstacle was the fat tourists who all made like a 20 person holding hands chain…they were being safe, so if one person fell…everybody else does. Anyways it was a bunch of fun because I went up 4 and a half times until we had to go. The freshwater felt great to get a good old wash off the salty body.

Michael Fogg 

12 Jan AM – I’m Down.

I’m glad that we have been able to get a bunch of diving in during the past couple days. I absolutely love to dive! This is the first time for me and many of us that when we dive down we’ve actually got work to do down there instead of just touring the area. While to some it may sound boring that we spend 45 minutes along only 60 ft of sea floor, but it’s actually really exciting to see all of the different types of corals, fish, and invertebrates that are so intricately woven into every square inch of the reef. It is also extremely rewarding to go down there and come back up with data that can be used in present times to further the world’s understanding of the reef and its inhabitants.

Billy Lake - Kevin Ids corals
Kevin helps figure out what species of coral are in our sample location.

 Data collection doesn’t always go as smoothly as it sounds though. Simple actions, such as measuring objects or taking clear pictures, become more difficult when you are being constantly moved by the surge of the ocean. The challenge just makes the dive that much more interesting and exciting. It’s a lot of fun to come up with a plan of action on land and then get in the water and carry out that plan despite the challenges. I can’t wait to get back down there again tomorrow!

Billy Lake - Laura measures coral
Laura takes measurements of the coral for later analysis.

– Billy Lake

12 Jan AM – Mad Brittlestar Fun

Today I started to collect brittle stars. I need to collect them by the hundreds for my project. It’s been raining a lot lately even though this is Jamaica’s dry season. I hope we get some sunny weather so I can start on a tan. Yesterday it started raining midday just as I started to lay out. Snorkeling has been mad fun, especially at night. I’ve seen two octopus’s in one outing. Wish I had my camera with me to snap a pick at them. Can’t wait to go to Ocho Rios tomorrow, I promised my parents I’d bring back some souveniers. It’s been a very fun time so far, I hope to do some productive research.

Nate_Brittle Star
The type of brittle stars I will have to be collecting hundreds of. It should be fun to go snorkeling for them. These guys are all over the place

 - Nate