17 Jan PM – Fin Kicks and Giggles

Research with Taylor (640x480)

Coral Reef Field work- It looks more challenging than you think

Yesterday morning, Taylor and I got up at the crack of dawn get some research done before we went to Dunn’s River Falls. We put our tanks on and headed out to our buoys by the coral reef crest. It was definitely a good workout and we were able to dive down and get a good look at the sea floor. We saw many small invertebrates that were impossible to see while snorkeling. Once we got to our sites, the measuring began! We measured the circumference and the height of four of our coral patches. We also videotaped all of the patches so that we can look at them on shore and count the biodiversity. After being tangled in our buoy line, losing our measuring equipment and avoiding each other’s fin kicks, we headed back to the shore. To say the least, this project has opened our eyes to the challenges of doing fieldwork on the coral reefs. Nonetheless, we are looking forward to going through the video footage and starting to identify the algae, sponges and corals.

Girls at Dunes River Falls (640x480)

Feeling accomplished at the top of Dunn's River Falls

The drive to Ocho Rios and Dunn's River falls was beautiful. We drove all along the coast and got to see small communities all along the way. Dunn's River Falls in itself felt like going to a water park. We all had a great time climbing up the falls being in the forest. It was all very beautiful!

Night Snorkel with Emily (640x480)

Habitat Partitioning

Today we are going to do some great diving! Scarlet (the dive instructor) is taking us out to a dive site that we will be going to later tonight for a night dive. It will be interesting to see how different it will be! In marine ecology there is a concept called habitat partitioning where habitats are shared among different species. During the day there are a set of species that hide in a particular habitats and will only come out at night. When they leave that habitat, another species that has been out during the day will take over the first species’ hiding place. When I went night snorkeling the other night, I saw tons of Diadema antillarum and spiny lobster. Tonight I’m hoping to get a glimpse of a squid and octopi.


[ed: Ali wrote this before the wind picked up late in the morning — night dive is on hold for now due to weather.]


17 Jan AM – Dunns River Falls

It was obvious when we arrived at the bottom of the waterfalls that I had gotten it all wrong. We were climing up the front of the waterfall, not the back and jumping off. In other words we would be climbing against the falling water. Now, thankfully we are not talking about the vertical drop of a waterfall you might imagine from the Disney Pocahantos scene as she sings "Just Around the Riverbend", but it was certainly still a challenge at some points.

As we reached the beginning, everyone was ready to go and no one wanted to wait for the group photo to be taken. As soon as we started though, the trailblazers were off climing so fast, like it was a paved track rather than a slippery slope. Then there were the climbers in the middle carfully picking our steps but making decent headway.

Most of the trek up was quite fun and often entertaining when we slipped and splashed as the water defeated us. However, there was one space that most of us agreed was particulary difficult on both our psyche and our bodies. It was a vertical space only six feet high or so, but the space was so small that water fell right down the hole with pounding force. I watched a person before me backdown after a few minutes of attempting to climb it. As soon as I steppped into it, all vision was gone and hearing anything was impossible. My sense of touch was all I had to find the footholes and the divots in the rock to hold onto. With the deafening sound of crashing water and my inablility to see, I felt around as I took my firsts steps. Once I was off the bottom rock, there was no going back. Back would mean defeat and it could have also led to injury. The climb was short, but with the forcing water, finding the next foothold and indents became a challenge, not only for my body but also for my mind. With two of my senses blocked, I had to mentally encourage myself to not get scared, that it was just water, and if I was strong enough to pull myself up, I could take my time and find my place. I could feel my arms and legs weakening under the pressure as the water did not let up but only strengthened as I became weaker. At one point, I had to use my hand to lift my thigh to find the next holding. When my head broke the surface of the crashing water, I knew the rest was easy. Standing at the top of that rock felt really amazing because I knew if I had done that, the falls from there foward was conquerable. It was laughter, cheers, refreshment, and a team builder all in one for those of us who hung near one another, and took turns paving the way warning the other of tricky places. It was exhilerating and, even if small, an adventure I will soon not forget.

Tough spot

This is the particular place where we all had the most trouble. I am in this picture, but you cannot see me because I am the one climbing at the moment.

At the top

All of our ecstatic smiles at the top of the falls having successfully deafeated the tumbling water.


17 Jan AM – The real Jamaican patty.

Today was our field trip day to Ochos Rios and Dunn’s falls and get some of our Touristy needs out of our systems. Climbing the falls was a great and walking around town was fun, but in reality I couldn’t escape the idea that walking around the pseudo-town that lives and breathes solely for the luxuries and fantasies of the tourist’s island dream. I needed to find something that was innately Jamaican – somewhere where the locals went and that the locals appreciated. Thankfully, Richard came to the rescue with a brilliant piece of research and foresight! Richard had thought to ask one of the dive masters at the Marine Lab, a bona fide born-and-raised Jamaican, where to find the most quintessential Jamaican food item to Stony Brook night time snackers: the Jamacian Beef Patty.

Snow had told us to go to a place called Mother’s Patties. I got the cheese and beef patty and yes, it was deeeeeeeelicious. Roxanne, Lucia, Richie and I all had to sit around trying to cool off the fresh patty for a good before eating it but it was oh so worth it.

It’s $100JA to the $1US, don’t worry!

– Emily

16 Jan PM – Home Away From Home

This trip has been taxing on our sanity, patience, and bodies. At the same time, its been an enriching and important learning experience. Away from home and the United States, naturally uncomforatble situations are bound to occur. Luckily, no matter what wonderful occurances or testing challenges our days bring us, the talented and kind women in the kitchen always take good care of us. No matter how water logged, stressed, tired, or excited we are, they have comforting food waiting for us. So far we have a variety of fish, chicken cooked many different ways, ham, varieties of rice, salads, fruits, breads, sweets, and specialty Jamaican drinks all prepared with pure talent. We are all convinced we are gaining pounds of body weight from all the fantastic meals, despite all our physical activity. [ed: The instructors must reluctantly report that weight gain on this trip is a fact.]

In addition, meal times have become cherished moments of bonding. We all have a similar interest to teach and learn with one another. So as we learn and bond, things can get pretty silly sometimes inbetween the work. For instance when Brad, Joe, or John start singing Christmas carols and other musical numbers.

People at table

People at table 2

Beautiful faces at the dinning hall


16 Jan PM – Duct Tape Reliability

Recently in my time in Jamaica, we have begun working on our research projects. Mine excitedly is on my favorite sea creature so far, Tripneustes ventricosus (West Indian Sea Egg). My partner and I are going to be measuring the abundance of Sea Eggs from the distance from the reef crest to the shoreline. Aside from that yesterday we went to Dunn River Falls and we also went to Ocho Rios. Before heading to the waterfall, I looked down at my shoes and got told by one of our instructors that there was a high possibility that they might fall off. I decided to create a sturdy old fashion strap on my shoe, the Duct Tape. I duct taped my sandals to my foot, hoping that it would work. It in fact did, and it lasted 2 climbs of the waterfall before it ripped. I even climbed up the harder side of the falls. It may be old fashioned, but I have to say duct tape is the fast reliable way to go.


Starting a new trend


Just keep climbing, Just keep climbing.


16 Jan PM – Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming

Today we started off our day with a trip to Dunn's waterfall which was awesome, I’ve never felt so sure-footed in running water, but I guess that’s because they scrub the rocks so algae can’t form. The waterfalls were so picturesque; it was like looking at a postcard. Walking through freshwater was a refreshing change from the seawater we snorkel in everyday, refreshing as in does my laundry for me with the bathing suit I was wearing. I wish we had more time so that I could’ve gone up it more; I only got to climb it twice.

Dunne's group photo

We made it to the top!

Afterwards we went to Ochos Rios, where we were allowed to roam the town and pick up some souvenirs and have lunch. I had a burger, as a true American would, I couldn’t resist especially because I knew if I didn’t have it then I would be craving it until I got home. It was okay, definitely not up to Bobby’s Burgers or Five Guys standards, but it did the trick. After lunch we walked around the shops for a bit, very touristy, and then we walked over to the straw market. That was definitely an interesting experience to say the least. I’ve never been very good at haggling because I always feel too bad, but I think I did a pretty good job with getting away with some good deals, it’s funny how quickly they’ll lower their price to yours once you start to walk away. I kinda felt like vultures were attacking us as soon as we walked in. It was obvious that we were tourists and everyone wanted us to look in their tents, most of which had the exact same things in them but some were more willing to lower their prices than others. I spent too much time at the market though and forgot to get after bite for my 50+ mosquito bites, nobody seems to have as many issues with mosquitoes as I do, but by this point in my life I’m used to these stupid insects sucking out my sweet blood, hm maybe I should stop eating so many sweets…

Mosquito bites

Ooh yum, mosquitoes just love me too hard, unfortunately for them I don’t really reciprocate their love.

When we got back I took a nap, had dinner and then Breeanne and I worked on our research project, which has to do with sea urchins and the competition between the same species and the competition between 2 different species. We had to go out and night snorkel to get some algae to test their preference for food so we collected turf algae, green grape algae, dictoyta, and turtlegrass. We put one sea urchin per tank and 2.5 grams of algae of each kind per tank. In the morning we’ll see if there is a difference in the weight of the algae after feeding time (urchins are nocturnal feeders). Hopefully our experiment goes as planned (:


This is the tank set-up that we’re using, glass tank, a partition in the middle, and covering the tank with black siding stuff to emulate night time so that they feed quicker.


These are our urchin buddies, from left to right Variegated sea urchin (2), and West Indian Sea Egg.

– Kaitlyn

16 Jan PM – Swimming with the fishes

SCUBA diving is hands down the most amazing experience that I have ever had. The weightless feeling as you drop backwards from the boat into the ocean and the water takes away the strain of all your gear is only the beginning. Then you descend. The clear blue Jamaican water slowly piles on top of you, pressurizing your internal air spaces. Equalize, equalize, equalize. Then you reach the sandy bottom. The reef is just a few fin kicks away. It looks like a rocky lifeless mound from far away, but then as you approach the colors of corals, sponges, and fish start to pop out. Your eyes start to widen and you almost open your mouth in amazement, but then remember that your only source of air is between your teeth. You stop and stare for awhile then realize that the rest of the group is ahead and quickly swim to catch up. The experience is something that no one could possible describe, it must be felt. The sheer amount of species that are visible is enough to entertain for hours. I have never seen so much beauty and life; nothing else could compare to this on land. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, Australian outback, and Hawaiian Islands. No place or sight has ever given me the intense feeling that diving has given me. That first dive literally brought tears to my eyes and filled me up with something like hope. The ones after that were no less amazing. I have a feeling that diving around a reef is one of those things that will never get old; it will always be amazing, always visually stimulating and beautiful. This is what life is about; this is probably what people call love.


Me about 30ft underwater.


Fish swimming above and around us while we scuba dive.


Yellow tube sponge (Aplysina fistularis) and other reef inhabitants.


Christmas tree worms (Spirobranchus giganteus) on fnger coral (porites porites) [ed: and some fire coral too!].

– Megan 

16 Jan AM – It’s O-fish-ial! I’m Scuba Certified!

[Ed: For the record, we take zero responsibility for the use of puns in blog posts…]

I know. It’s a pretty lame pun. Regardless, I feel like I can afford at least some silly humor since I’m so excited to be a certified diver. I thought nothing would beat my first open water dive, which exposed me to a vibrant coral reef with odd looking corals, sponges, fish, and more alien sea life that would have made my jaw drop if it hadn’t been for the regulator in my mouth. The next day we explored the rim of a coral reef drop-off and as I looked over the edge, which plunged 100 feet into blueness, I realized this could never get old.

We’ve finally finished studying our lectures and have now begun the research portion of this class. My two research partners and I will be exploring the effects of urchin predation on algae. We’re expecting to find more coral where there are fewer algae since there would be less competition between these species for the same resources. We’re hoping the project will ultimately tie in to the positive effects of predation on biodiversity within the coral reef. However -as is very typical of research- we still have to hone in on our methodology, make our data quantifiable while limiting outside factors, and shed any extraneous details from our research question. We’ll see how it goes as we keep working… all I know is that I’m really excited!


Feeding fish during my first open water scuba dive

– Roxane

16 Jan AM – Shark Bait Ohh Ha Ha!

Scuba diving is awesome! After doing four open water dives six of us got certified here in Jamaica. One of our dives we got to look over a reef and peer down to about 100 feet it was so crazy! There were many types of fish but my favorite were a school of large black ones that followed us as we swam down the wall and through an underwater canyon. It is definitely an experience that I will never forget.


Here is Julia going down the wall.

On land, I also got a chance to explore the forest with Megan to find the mangroves that grow partially in the water. We also went snorkeling to try and figure out what lives on the mangrove roots. There I met a feisty little Dusky Damselfish that was guarding his home within in the rocks.


Beautiful Red mangroves (aka Rhizophora mangle) which we were just tested on.

Say cheese!



Let me just start by saying that Fruty is awesome. Our diving instructor is really funny and made this experience of getting certified in Jamaica that much better. Having said that I want to congratulate all the DITs that went through this experience with me. The training for all of us was amazing and diving just takes beautiful to a whole new level. During the open water dives, we went to awesome dive sites and it completely exceeded my expectations. All the different species of fish, plants, and coral coexisting together in this place is just overwhelming. I am now PADI certified and I plan on making the most out of it during this trip!

Also, I am super excited about our research project. We are looking at coral abundance as it relates to sea urchin abundance and algae cover. This is really exciting because it’s my first time out in the field doing marine science research. Also, the first few steps when Roxane, Rich and I had to revise out project multiple times reminded me of how frustrating but interesting research can be. I am really looking forward to moving on and getting data for this project.

Lucia_divers certification

Fruity showing us the way

Lucia_furry sea urchin