22 Jan PM – The final countdown…

The countdown clock has begun, and our time in Jamaica is coming to a close. From the diving and snorkeling, to the lectures, instructors, and even the tropical weather, I tried my hardest to gain as much as I could from this valuable experience. In just two weeks, I have logged twelve dives, gained four credits towards my marine science major, made some wonderful new friends, spotted special sea creatures, made connections with professionals in the field, and most importantly learned an invaluable amount about this ecosystem and myself.

Stepping into this journey, I wasn’t sure how I would react or what I would learn. I cannot express my gratitude enough though to those that made it such a great experience. Thank you to Scarlet and Snow for looking out for us during every dive, and helping us with all the equipment. They showed us some of the most incredible places under water, and introduced us to Jamaica above and below the sea. Precious and the wonderful women in the kitchen made sure our bellies were full and our taste buds satiated as well as the cleaning staff that put up with us tracking mud everywhere. Dr. Buddo and Mr. Gayle were kind enough to give us their time so that we could learn more about Discovery Bay Marine Lab and the research that goes on here, and even extend invitations to apply to return to study here.

Thank you especially to the instructors. Not only did they teach us as much as they could, they answered every question, and strove to make sure we found everything we came here hoping to see and experience. They brought us to Duns River Falls, Ocho Rios, Rio Grande [Ed: I think she means Rio Bueno as none of our side trips were to the US-Mexico border.], Green Grotto, The Ultimate Jerk, and even accompanied us on work dives. While doing their own work, they taught us about the ocean, grad school, and their own research all while still having great times in between.

I'’ve seen and done more than I could have ever hoped. I climbed a waterfall, played with bioluminescent organisms, dabbled with octopuses, glided with sting rays, gasped at a sea turtle, acquainted with coral, became friendly with a pelican, starred many damsel fish in the face, and so many other large and small adventures. I cannot say I am an expert by any means about anything I learned here, but I can say I am leaving with a much better understanding of the tropical marine ecosystem, what might be in store for my future, myself, and Jamaica as a whole. I am so grateful I had this opportunity to be here. It would not have been possible without the Discovery Bay Marine Lab staff, the Stony Brook instructors, and of course all our own families suffering in the snow back home.


The group of us are on the way to the lab from the airpport on the first day.


Here are some exceptionally beautiful fire coral we spotted while snorkeling. 


This is the awesome view we had from the dock of the lab everyday.


Not only was the view amazing, but so was the artwork scattered around the campus that made being here even more delightful. 



22 Jan PM – Diving Rio Bueno

Yesterday morning was our boat trip to a dive sight known as Rio Bueno, a coral reef wall that drops down to deep depths. In my last post, I mentioned always finding something new and exciting. Well this trip was without a doubt the best so far! The colors of all the corals found along the wall were brilliant and inviting and extended as far as the eye could see. There were so many cracks and crevices to check that spending all day there would easily be a possibility. The corals and fish were amazing, however my favorite part of the dive involved a lot less ‘stuff’; looking away from the reef out into the open ocean. The blue color of the open ocean made me feel like it was completely still and empty. Some of the divers even got to see a sea turtle emerge from the blue abyss (I was not that fortunate, but still got to sea a video that was taken).

 Look how blue the water is!


Diving just above the reef wall of Rio Bueno.  

– Breeanne

22 Jan PM – The day I went to 130 ft. underwater [Ed: No, she did not.]

So yesterday we finished our second trial of our urchin experiment, everything is going mostly as planned with only minor hiccups and hopefully everything will continue to go that way.

Throwing Urchins

Breeanne and I releasing the urchins we don’t need off the dock.


I’m actually writing this blog post sitting in the 85 degrees sunny weather; I hear on Long Island they’re preparing for 14 inches of snow, this makes Jamaica that much better. [Ed: Again, the course instructors can't emphasize this enough — we do not condone or approve of taunting folks in NY — some of us are going to have shovel our way into our houses on thursday when we get back.]

Anyways, yesterday we started off the morning a little slower than usual because the ocean was rough due to a northerly wind, meaning we couldn’t go to the dive location that we intended to the night before. Instead, a few of us decided to go off the Bauxite pier close by. It was pretty silty but I still saw a bunch of corals I’d never really gotten a close look at before, and I got to see Joe kill some Lionfish. We spent the rest of the day doing our project and looking at research articles. When I was looking for turf algae in the water I saw a big barracuda, I thought it was huge, but everyone else told me to stop over exaggerating. Dinner later that night was awesome, we had chicken with some kind of barbequey sauce on it, which I spread over my rice as well, I had to have seconds. Yum, yum. We finished off the night by going out to the helipad and watching the stars, they’re absolutely beautiful out here, it’s so nice not having the light pollution like there is on the island. I wish I could take a picture, but unfortunately my phone can’t take a picture that clear. Oh well, guess you gotta see it to believe it.

This morning we went to Rio Bueno, where we got to dive off a wall, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, literally the reef just drops off to ocean. We were told before we left, and again on the boat, that we weren’t allowed below 60 feet, but on a reef face that’s kind of difficult if you don’t pay attention. I continued to be amazed by all the different types of coral, the branching corals especially, because they need to be deeper to be protected from waves. I saw a sea turtle from afar, but the people behind me got to get up close and personal, I’m so jealous… When we got back up I was wrongfully accused of going 130 feet due to my incorrect depth meter and thus, supposedly, gave Professor Warren heart palpatation. He should have known better, because why would a perfect student like me ever disobey any kind of rule?

See you in 3 days New York, can’t wait for the cold weathe! (NOT)

– Kaitlyn


We went and saw some cool caves the night before, I wish I had some pictures of the bats, they’re so cute.

Slate Pencil Urchin

Slate-Pencil Urchin!


22 Jan AM – We dissected Lionfish!!!!!

Mouth Open Lionfish (640x480)

Within the past 5 years or so, Lionfish have been on the minds of many marine biologists and fisherman all along the east coast of the United States, Caribbean Islands and Jamaica. Originally, from the Pacific, Lionfish were brought over to this part of the world through research and the aquarium trade. Many believe aquarium tank owners that had Lionfish in their tanks (which they used to pay up to $500 for) would release the fish into the wild once they got too big. Another speculation is that they many have been introduced due to the flooding of research facilities during harsh storms.

Disperal of lionfish (500x528)

Dispersal of lionfish population of the Caribbean from 1985 till 2011. Red dots indicate presence of lionfish. Ref: http://nas.er.usgs.gov

The Lionfish have now begun to take over the East Coast and are causing major problems in their path. They are eating almost every type of fish including many of the most economic fish. Although we have many of the Lionfish’s natural predators here on the east coast, the predators here are not used to eating this fish and therefore cannot help the control the Lionfish population. Governments and Environmental programs are trying really hard to encourage the locals to start fishing for Lionfish. The fish themselves are tasty but the only problem is that Lionfish have sharp spines on the tips of their fins that make them difficult to handle. During the past few years scientist have been trying hard to capture and kill Lionfish larvae and they have been attempting to develop traps that will only attract Lionfish and not any other bycatch.

Joe, Sal and taylor (640x480)

The other day Joe, Sal and Taylor speared five Lionfish! We cut off all of the spines and gutted them. In the largest fish, we found a small parrotfish. This fish was actually rather large in comparison to the Lionfish. We than gave the Lionfish to Scarlet who may have eaten it for dinner.

Lionfish eating (640x480)


  • Ali

Ps. Almost have of this class say “y’all” now. I see this a great accomplishment!  


22 Jan AM – The Ultimate Jerk

[Ed: Post title refers to a local restaurant we went to, not the blog post author's opinion about the course instructors.]

In the past two weeks, Jamaica has been nothing short of beautiful.

Awakening every morning to the glimmering waters of the bay and seeing so much wildlife has been surreal. But, despite all the cool things in the ocean, something was missing. The imagery was perfect, but that real Caribbean feeling wasn’t there. Sure I was talking patois with the staff, but I knew there was more outside of the Discovery Bay. When I was told that we were going to the Green Grotto caves, I wasn’t very excited. I figured it’d be just another tourist excursion. You know, the ones where you meet up with a group of other Americans, take pictures of stuff, and practically spend the whole day with them. I wanted something different.

Luckily, right across the street from the caves was The Ultimate Jerk, a small outdoor restaurant right off the main road. Though the place was a bit touristy, I took one look at the menu and realized I was exactly where I wanted to be. When I got to the front of the line, I ordered some jerk chicken with peas and rice and a side of fried cassava. I was so excited to finally get a local feel of Jamaica and speak patois with some local people. It had been a while since I was able to unwind and have a regular conversation with someone in my own language.

Once the sun had set, they turned on some nice reggae music. It felt good to see both my friends and the local people in the restaurant having a great time together. As the night went on, things only got better as we sat around in a circle telling hilarious and memorable stories. I guess you could attribute the good time to the dim lights and smooth sounds, but I think there was something more. I think it was the common experience of immersing ourselves in a foreign world that brought everyone together. For that one night, the tourist-local dichotomy disappeared. We were all friends laughing the night away.


Richard_Jerk Chicken Mon!

Jerk Chicken Mon

Richard_The Green Grottos

The Green Grotto Caves

– Richard

21 Jan PM – BON VOYAGE!! Time to send our little urchins off.

Our time here in Jamaica is drawing closer and closer to the end, but there is so much yet to be done. Yesterday marked the beginning of our last set of experiments which meant it was time to set free all our urchins that would not be needed for the rest of our experiments here (we may have gone overboard with the urchin collecting). With our last set of experiments in progress we will soon begin to analyze all the data we have been collecting over the past week. All our hard work will hopefully pay off and give us what we need to create a great presentation and great papers, the main reason we came here.


Yeah, just a bit overboard…


Happy to set the little guys back out into the world.


Kaitlyn saying goodbye. She is much sadder than she appears.

Just because projects have entered crunch time doesn’t mean we still can’t discover new and exciting things. There is still so much snorkeling and diving to do before leaving and I am really hoping on one of our outings we will see a sea turtle! [Ed: Some of us saw one on this morning's dive at Rio Bueno.] Finding new things every time I enter the water is the best thing about being here.  

– Breeanne

21 Jan PM – With Fronds like these who needs Anemones

[Ed: The title of this post may have won best/worst ever pun for the course…]

The last couple days have been really exciting. We have taken a few field trips off the Discovery Bay Marine Lab campus. We climbed up a waterfall and went shopping in Ocho Rios where some of us mastered the art of bartering. We also ventured off campus a few days later to walk through the Green Grotto Cave. It is one of the largest caves in the world. There we saw many bats, fossils, and even a snake. Later we walked across the street and had some delicious jerk chicken. It has been awesome getting to experience some of the other parts of Jamaica with everyone here.


Pretty underground lake.


Pretty people in the cave.


20 Jan PM – So… that being cold thing…

The other day I checked facebook, and would you believe it is cold in some places in the world? There was a new picture of our new puppy Rufus on his first walk in the snow. Apparently it is a characteristic January in New York, filled with snow and lit fireplaces… needless to say, I am going to be in for a big shock when I get off the plane at JFK in a few days. [Ed: The course instructors do not condone this taunting of blog-readers in NY.]


New York doesn’t look like this in January?

Yesterday we went to the one trip I have been really looking forward to this trip: venturing into the Green Groto! I would love to see what it looked like before they paved paths and installed lights into the caves. I loved seeing the bats flying around and the crystal clear pools of water with fish! I was probably a bit annoying to my peers because I was constantly asking the tour guide questions – are there fossils? How does CO2 impact the cave? The most important question, however, naturally, was WHERE ARE THE SNAKES ?


I was way too excited: Jamaican Yellow Boa Epicrates subflavus)

For our research project GraceAnne (my research buddy) and I are looking at boring sponge (Cliona spp.) populations for our research project. We will be higher at sites with smaller bottom sediment particle size, lower coral coverage and lower coral species richness. Boring sponge are encrusting bioeroders that grow on corals.


Cliona spp. Eating away at a coral

I feel like I have become so comfortable with waking up at 6am and I love being in the water every day and exploring the fish, reefs and sites around Discovery Bay. What is going to happen when I go back to napping under my comforter with my audiobook instead of running around in my flip flops and bathing suit?


Perhaps a little distant from the muddy Hudson benthic habitat

How am I going to do “cold”?


20 Jan PM – The Last Post from Kat/Kit Kat

As our days our coming to an end in Jamaica, it is time to reflect on the best moments. From the stresses of the beginning cramming for our exam to the now finishing up for the reason why we came here, our research projects. I’m so thankful that I was able to attend this trip, and I’m thankful for Joe and Brad for accepting me even though I have no marine science background. Not only have we done classwork but we were able to eat delicious Jamaican meals every day by the wonderful staff here, climb up waterfalls, haggle gypsies for our souvenirs, and yesterday we actually were able to walk through a cave with stylish miner hats. The cave was pretty cool, except the fact there was bats flying around everywhere. One of my classmates took the lucky dropping of bat feces on his shirt; thankfully it wasn’t me. All in all this is an experience I will never be able to forget.


Our stylish hairnets and cool miner hats


The beauty of nature.


20 Jan AM – Quadrant vs. Quadrat

This past week has been very stressful, but at the same time lots of fun. My 4th dive ever after being certified was a night dive, and the bioluminescence was amazing. I kept waving my hands under water just to see the little creatures lighting up. It was one of the best experiences of my life, despite the confusion and the initial scare. During that dive, I feel like I went through my air faster than ever before because of the initial freaking out about the darkness.

Another important thing that happened this week was getting data with Rich and Roxane. The project we are doing requires us to dive down and lay out a 12 meter transect at 8 to 10 meters deep. This means that we’ve been diving basically every day. I never thought I could get this exhausted, but it was so worth it. There is a great feeling of accomplishment when I see the pictures of the work we have been doing and getting data points.


Laying out transects and getting some work done.


Getting tired of seeing this over and over aagain

Lucia_data analysis

HEY LOOK, we actually do work!

– Lucia