We were all treated to a nice change of scenery this morning and were taken via boat to Rio Bueno to dive and snorkel! The divers were taken down in groups of 4-5 and were then free to explore for as long as our air tanks would allow. I went down with Allie, Lauren, and Kyle while our professor, Joe, led us. After dropping down about 20 ft and getting ourselves situated, we continued on and swam down to 60 ft along a wall of coral, where we then stayed for roughly 30-40 minutes. We were surrounded by huge schools of fish and beautiful coral formations. Within 5-10 minutes of our descent we came across a pair of lionfish, an invasive species that negatively impacts the reefs here in Jamaica. So Joe, fully equipped with his spear-gun and mesh bag, naturally went on a killing spree- or to put it more nicely, an ecological restoration spree. He caught a total of 5, which means lionfish for dinner for us! Some other notable finds for our group were an elusive scrawled filefish and some flying fish while we were on the boat heading home! Safe to say this was an experience I, personally, will never forget.
Joe snags another lionfish, saving the reefs of Jamaica one fish at a time!
The scrawled filefish wedged inside a crevice in the coral, quite the awesome find!
[Note: We had some thumb drive corruption issues so some of these blog posts are from a few days ago. Sorry for the delays.]
Officially Divers but Always DITS at Heart!
Today all of the DITS (Divers in Training) completed our certification dive and officially became certified divers. The dive took place in the early afternoon and the location we got to explore was Discovery Bay Marine Lab’s own “Eco-Reef”. We got to witness first-hand what structures and methods are used by humans to aid in the establishment of a new reef ecosystem. After we completed our skills at about 20 feet we got to swim to about 50 feet and look around. Also we got to see, touch and hold some pretty large sea cucumbers. It’s a very accomplished feeling to know that the 8 of us who knew nothing about scuba diving only a short 10 days ago are now all equipped with the ability and the know how to do it on our own without the assistance of an instructor. So even though we are now technically CD’s (certified divers) we will always be DITS at heart!
Me and My Regulator Issues.
“Hi Mom and Dad!” – Aaron
Sam and her new Best Friend!
Just hangin’ around at 50 feet.
Lots of Fun and Adventure!
The journey down to the caves was an adventure in itself. However, along the way we stumbled upon some exciting creatures. As we ventured down the caves, the first noise we heard was the screeching of the bats as they flew all around the cave. We would see them fly so quickly above our heads however not close enough to get a good look. As we were exiting the cave, we looked up to find several bats hanging on the ceiling. Our guide told us that bats stick close together because they are preyed upon by snakes. Snakes have heat vision so to avoid being eaten they stay close and to the snake’s eye they look like one large object. Another creature we found along the way was a Yellow Jamaican snake. As we all gathered around the snake, she stood her ground until Kyle so bravely grabbed her from behind her head and picked her up. She began coiling around his arm so he put her down and she slithered up the walls of the cave. After we left the cave, we walked across the street to the Ultimate Jerk for dinner to continue our amazing day!
A bunch of bats huddling together for safety.
Yellow Jamaican snake we found on our way back up the cave after visiting the subterranean pool.
All of us in our fashionable hardhats as we descended further into the cave.
Diving Days Are Happy Days
Today the wind finally calmed down enough for some of the undergraduates to go out diving! Ben, Kevin, Amy, Kayleigh, and I braved the rolling sea and early hour with our fearless leaders, John and Mr. Scarlett. Ben, Kevin, and Amy managed to collect water samples and sponges for their project while Kayleigh and I went off exploring. We all managed to get a nice, long dive in and returned to a delicious breakfast of omelets that our fellow classmates were kind enough to set aside for us. Later in the day, the post-DITs ventured out to complete DBML’s check-out dive, meaning that all divers now have the privilege of waking up for 7 AM dives whenever they want to!
Ben Prepared to Collect Data (photo credit: Kevin)
Amy Smiles for the Camera (photo credit: Kevin)
Kayleigh and Emily at the Bottom (photo credit: Kevin)
So Many Brittle Stars
Projects are in full
swing now that we have an understanding of our projects and some
solid methods. Unfortunately, in my project, the brittle stars were
self-destructing yesterday in this morning. They clearly were not
happy about being placed in cups. Who know something would rip itself
into pieces because it felt threatened? Seems a little
counter-productive to me. Anyways, after collecting some new brittle
star and removing the cups they were held in, the project began to
pick up the pace again with far less bumps to deal with. Part two of
the research has begun and appears to be running smoothly, for now.
Hopefully, as we add one more step, complications will be at a
This is the
sea table my group and I are using for our brittle star research. The
tiles provide a dark place for the brittle stars to hide and seek
cover. The movements of the brittle stars are currently being timed
with different light sources.
brittle star was found in the back reef of Discovery Bay. After
finding this first one, I knew immediately I wanted to research them
Rain, Rain, Go Away…
It’s rained almost
every day that we’ve been in Jamaica. Fondly called “liquid
sunshine” by the staff, the rain here usually starts and ends
within 5 minutes, all while the sun continues to shine. Well, not
this morning. This morning we woke up to a cloudy, cold downpour
that’s lasted practically all day. Most of us were stuck inside all
day (though a few people did venture out and go snorkeling in the
rain), but at least we all have our research projects to work on to
keep us busy when we can’t sunbathe on the dock.
best sight to wake up to in the morning
My partner Sam and I
have been working on our project in the wet lab, so thankfully we
didn’t have to brave the weather outside today. The point of our
experiment is to measure the time it takes sea hares (sort of like
giant sea slugs) to secrete ink while we jostle them around. In the
field, sea hares secrete a purple ink as a way to deter their
predators when they’re grabbed, and they get their ink from the red
algae they eat. We want to see if limiting their red algae
consumption has an effect on inking reaction time or ink
replenishment rates. In other words, we spend most of our days
poking giant slugs until they ink at us, which is pretty entertaining
on a rainy day like today.
a sea hare
(aptly named because he’s escaped twice) finally inked!
We’ve fondly named
all of our sea hare subjects (we have 8 so far), and this morning we
woke up to a surprise: some of our sea hares had laid eggs! We read
that it takes 10-12 days for eggs to hatch, but it’ll be
interesting to see if anything happens to them before we have to
leave in five days.
and some eggs
weather clears up over the next few days enough for us to go diving
or at least enjoy the sunshine before we have to head back to New
York. Today was the first day that I haven’t been in the water
since we got here, so fingers crossed the weather gets better!
Aiming for A’s!
As the semester winds down, students are getting down to business with their projects. Part of the course includes comprising a research project and then submitting a full-fledged scientific paper. Unfortunately the weather has not been up to par, which hindered a lot of the students’ research. Some students even had to go as far as changing their entire project. But we won’t allow that to break our spirits. Students still suit up, and dive in to the treacherous, murky waters in order to collect data and aim for their A’s!
Students heading in the water right before the rain.
Another Gusty Day in Paradise
With white caps visible in the bay again, some groups decided to stay in entirely and work on methodology and research while a few brave individuals ventured forth. Cuts, scrapes, and bruises continued to pile up on many of those that did head out to the water. Amir and myself went all the way out to the crest (which some said couldn’t be done, challenge accepted and conquered), which while the visibility was better, the wave action was daunting. Numerous times we found ourselves swimming as hard as we could against the sheer power of the waves, only to stay in place or to slow the speed at which we were being repelled from the crest. At some points, even with all of our efforts we would still be thrown back 3-6meters (~10-20feet for you non-metric folk), helpless against the will of mother nature. Persistence and determination paid off in the end though as we were able to make it all the way out and sit on some exposed dead coral to rest and converse about how next time we should bring lunch for a picnic. Pictures were taken and plans devised for our agenda tomorrow. Tonight we will be enjoying a BBQ outside and some hard earned relaxation!
Amir relaxing on the reef crest after a long hard swim.
Me relaxing on the crest, happy to be done with the swim out and being able to take some pictures before heading back in.
We found a bunch of coral that may be diseased for our research, but this is one that almost certainly would be!
Dan the Man
we started the bulk of our experiment by performing transect surveys
along the coral reef out in Discovery Bay. We were looking for coral
disease along the reef, and we have become better at identifying
them. This was particularly difficult because of the wave energy and
the weather, which was at its worst today. Trying to string together
a straight, 45 foot line underwater while at the mercy of the waves
was not easy but regardless we pushed on and completed it. This
concludes only a small part of our experiment, and we have much more
to go. The rest of the day was spent doing research and eating some
great Jamaican cuisine.
Performing transect surveys.
Suspected dark spot disease on a coral.
photo description) Performing transect surveys
photo) Suspected Dark Spot Disease on a coral
“When it Rains It Pours and
Train (the band) couldn’t have
said it better in their song “When I Look to the Sky” to describe
our day. As we continue to experience rain here and there throughout
the trip, yesterday for a majority of the afternoon it was pouring
and I don’t mean a little patter here and there, I mean where we
physically stopped in our tracks and had to ask ourselves “is that
rain?” So even though we all had to put our sun tans on hold for a
while, we still made the most of our day. Some of us braved the water
and swam against the waves to the point where our thighs burned and
were at the point of complete exhaustion, while others stayed in the
lab and ran endless trials of our experiments where they either
worked or ended with us yelling at them.
Let’s just say by the end,
we were all exhausted from our productive day. Not only did the rain
encourage us to do nonstop work on our projects but it also brought
us closer together as a group and strengthened the friendships being
made, whether it was with people or organisms. By dinner time, we had
all had enough and just wanted to relax. Ping pong games, card
activities, or standing outside and talking which all concluded with
the endless laughing and watching of Despicable Me (even though some
of us ended up falling asleep through it). At the end of the day, we
were all tired and bodies were like jello but went to bed relaxed and
content with our day…for the most part.
A rainbow between the storms
Amir, Sam, Clara and Allie all hanging out after dinner