12 Jan PM – Variegated Sea Urchin Collection

Variegated Sea Urchin Collection

Over the last couple of days Nick and I have been collecting these urchins every chance we get, even when the weather conditions are not in our favor. We have gathered around 80 urchins in 3 different regions of the water up to this point and aim to find at least another 50 in the upcoming days!

A small sample of some of the variegated sea urchins collected


12 Jan AM – We Have Fun Too!

We Have Fun Too!

Even though most of the time here in Jamaica we’re studying or working hard on our projects, we have found time to have some fun as well. After being here for so long all of us have become good friends and really enjoy spending time with each other. Before getting back to work on our projects after lunch, a few of us played some ping pong. It was a nice break from our experiments. At about four o’clock today a lot of us finished snorkeling at about the same time so we were all sitting down by the water. After a little while, Joe and Amber came swimming in from their snorkel trip. They keep those of us on the shore entertained. The fun continued while all of us were waiting for dinner to be ready and decided to have an impromptu professors/ TAs versus undergrads volleyball game. Some of us were better than others but all of us had fun. The profs/ TAs won in a “next point wins” situation but it was a close game that all of us enjoyed. [Ed: 1. The score was probably 10-5 when we called "next point wins" as dinner was ready. It wasn't a close game. Age and wisdom beat youth and inexperience every time.] Overall it was another day of hard work balanced out by fun!

Amir taking on Amy in ping-pong.

Joe put on a show for us by showing us how to properly flip our hair.

The undergrads putting up a fight [i.e. losing badly to their professors] in volleyball.

– Meaghan

11 Jan PM – Hanging out on the helipad

Hanging out on the helipad:

Some of us sitting on the helipad in the sun.

Suddenly a wild Joe appears.  

This morning Meaghan and I went out to the reef to try and collect some data for our research project. The wind and the waves made it tough to do this and it even broke our quadrat we were using. After lunch we decided to go out again with our new PVC pipe quadrat with greater success. Once we came back to shore we decided to join some of the others who were sitting on the helipad and relaxing after they went out earlier. We were all having fun, hanging out and talking when Joe and Amber came back from their snorkel. Joe started an algae fight with us [Ed: I'd prefer to call it a pop Algae Identification Quiz] and was doing some nice impressions of the little mermaid by throwing his hair back out of the water. Even with these projects we are doing we still manage to find some free time to have fun.


11 Jan AM – A Stormy Day

A Stormy Day

A very windy morning here at DBML has led to less than desirable conditions for the start of a research project after a day of fun in Ochos Rios. Despite the unfavorable weather my partner Lindsay and I were determined to make progress in researching whether Rock Boring Urchins (E. lucunter) exhibit "schooling" patterns on rocks around the bay. We believe this behavior could be prominent to these Rock Boring Urchins based on observations from previous days swimming out and about the reefs. Our hypothesis is that they may use this grouping behavior for a couple reasons such as protection against predation due to strength in numbers, and easier accessibility for finding a mate since they are a fairly slow moving organism. Later that day we haphazardly collected data which gave us reason to believe we have a valid hypothesis!

Caption 1
A few Rock Boring Urchins exhibiting grouping behavior.

Caption 2
A stormy day here at Discovery Bay

Caption 3
PVC quadrat Lindsay and I constructed with a centimeter scale to show us the amount of Rock Boring Urchins in a given area and an idea of how close they are to one another.

– Kyle

10 Jan PM – Trip to Dunn’s River Falls and Ocho Rios

Trip to Dunn’s River Falls and Ocho Rios

Today we were all very excited to take a field trip to Dunn’s River Falls, a cascading waterfall and top tourist attraction about a half hour away from the Discovery Bay Marine Lab, and Ocho Rios, a town about another twenty minutes away from the falls. Once we arrived at the waterfall, we hurried down to the base of it, a beautiful sandy beach, to begin our ascent. Although there are ways to walk up the waterfall with relative ease, we chose to (mostly) take the more challenging route, finding foot- and hand-holds with which to pull ourselves up the falls.
The waterfall was pretty powerful in some places: to get up one particular ledge, we had to close our eyes and hold our breath and pull ourselves up by feel, but luckily there were a lot of foot-holes in that particular spot! By the time we got to the top, most of us were so energized that we hurried back to the bottom to do the climb for a second time—one person even made the climb four times. Once we were all finished climbing, we went to the nearby town of Ocho Rios for lunch and some souvenir shopping, haggling with Jamaican vendors in the straw markets to get the best prices on T-shirts, mugs, and other keepsakes, before heading back to the lab.
I think I can safely say that this was one of everyone’s favourite days of the trip so far!

Enjoying the beach at the bottom of the waterfall before our second climb.  

Everyone relaxing at the top of the falls after our first climb.

Colorful merchandise at one of the straw markets in Ocho Rios.

– Lindsay

10 Jan AM – Day 1 of Research Project Work

1 of Research Project Work

was the first day that all the students were given the opportunity to
work on their projects in the field after our day of relaxation at
Dunn’s River Falls yesterday. The weather was quite windy within the last 12 hours so the bottom sediment was stirred up making the
visibility within the lagoon area limited (less than 1 foot) causing
some students to terminate their work for the day. Those of us that
did venture out over the blue hole had better visibility and were
able to collect water samples to bring back to the lab for analysis
and filtration in our sedimentation project. While out over the
deeper water Amy, Ben and I were able to see and chase down a spotted
eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari). Tonight we will all have our
first opportunity to share with the class what our experiments are
and give positive feedback to help better each other’s studies so
that by next Friday our results will either prove or disprove our

Kevin Ryan - Ben and I working on our project
Ben McKeeby and I
working on our project. (Photo courtesy of Amy Marshall)

-Kevin Ryan

09 Jan PM – Ocho Rios, One Never Ending Water Fall!

Ocho Rios, One Never Ending
Water Fall!

In Ocho Rios there is the famous
Dunn’s River Falls. As we piled up by the entrance gate none of us
knew what we were getting ourselves in for. Yard after yard, we walked
towards the falls but heard no rushing water. We expected this to be
easy maybe even a trickle. However as we crept upon it the hushed
roar can be heard over the bustling crowd. The closer we got the more
our anticipation built! Finally we came to the stairway that would
bring us to the waters side. A river as wide as 2 car lengths with
cliffs as tall as houses was what we were up against. We thought the one
cliff was the challenge however the never ending staircase to the
bottom showed that we were looking to climb over a quarter mile in
distance and 600 feet in elevation.

As we exited a tunnel and climbed
the final stair case we could see that the falls ended in a beautiful
white sand beach looking out onto a reef. However working on our
tans was not our objective. As we looked at this monstrous falls, we see Prof. Warren ascending like a squirrel up this precariously
placed tree trunk onto the first cliff of the falls. Every student
went cliff after cliff, water rushing into their faces, feeling
around blindly looking for hand holds and edges to place their feet.
Some of the daring students climbed cliffs that were completely
vertical surfaces with only hope that there would be edges for them
to hold onto next, cause once you're 10 feet up a cliff, gallons of
water pouring straight on your body, there was no climbing back down.
Despite the treacherous cliffs and risky situations we got ourselves
in I’m proud to say that there was not a single student who did not
reach it to the top! In fact most of us did it twice. Heck, Kyle did
it 4 times!!!!!

Picture 1 (640x361)
One Daunting Sight

Picture 2 (640x324)
The Starting Line

Picture 3 (640x362)
25 feet above. Do not
Jump! Tempting I know…

– Aaron

09 Jan AM – Still working hard

Still working hard

The tests may be over but you can be sure that our projects will be keeping us busy for the remainder of the time that we have here. After a quick meeting with the professors and TAs it seemed that all of us needed to make preparations before our visit to Ocho Rios, and I know that we are all very excited to see the results of our experiments. So far today I have seen people setting up tanks, building traps, catching fish, taking pictures, discussing projects, and writing proposals.

Susan working on our project
Susan working on our project.

Despite all of what we still need to do, I know that this group will continue to find more free time to enjoy ourselves in the marine environment we all came here to see. I know for a fact that most of us will be getting more use out of our snorkel and scuba gear than ever before. At least when we do have to work on our projects, we can do it in beautiful weather with an amazing view.
Also, one of the groups decided to name the balloon fish they are using for their project after me. I don’t really know why, for some reason they think of me when they see a fish known for growing to three times its size and stabbing people with spines covering its body.

Peter the Balloonfish
Peter the baloonfish.

Peter Miller

08 Jan PM – DITS No More!

DITS No More!

Today was the day we 8 “divers in training” (or DITS) had been waiting for since we arrived in Jamaica- we completed our final 2 open water dives and are now officially certified SCUBA divers! We were driven to the FDR Resort just 10 minutes down the road from the Discovery Bay Marine Lab complex and immediately donned our gear to get in the water. The first dive was a doozey, entailing us to initially descend to about 30 feet, complete the skills asked of us by our instructors, and then to descend even further to 60 ft, between the walls of a canyon- without a doubt a daunting task! But we all tackled it head on, and to say the walls of the canyon were breathtaking and teeming with life would be an understatement! Once back on land, we waited about 2 and a half hours before getting back in the water to ensure none of us felt the effects of decompression sickness, or “the bends,” during our second dive.

After completing the final skills we needed to demonstrate in front of our instructors on our second dive, we were DONE- and none of us could’ve been happier! We rewarded ourselves with authentic Jamaican beef patties, which were delicious, and then headed back to DBML, more eager than ever to continue our undersea adventures and the enriching experiences the ocean has to offer.
And on a side note, Tracey ate her very first PB&J sandwich today! Needless to say, a humorous endeavor for all of us watching!

All 8 DITS just before our first dive, clearly very excited to be certified!

– Sam

08 Jan PM – Project Proposal Day

Project Proposal Day

There was definitely a sense of excitement around the campus today as all of the groups met with the professors to discuss our ideas for the experiments that we will be conducting throughout the remainder of out stay here in Discovery Bay. After each group met with the professors and had our ideas all organized we set out to start them, some of us in the wet lab and some of us out in the bay. My partner Mike and I set out into the bay to try our best to collect a Balloon fish, however we ran into many different species in our search, such as a Sharp Tail Eel, which is quite frightening to run right into head on.

Nick Russell Sharp Tail Eel

Sharp Tail Eel encounter in Discovery Bay.

We were out in the water for quite some time searching for our Balloon fish, which we need to carry out our experiment, but as we turned back to head in, I looked down and came across one, which we frantically captured. Afterwards we all sat down for another delicious dinner and then discussed out plans to head into Ochos Rios tomorrow.

– Nick