Notice any differences ? Prof. Peterson and myself would like to thank all the students of this year's MAR 388 course for a great learning and research experience in Jamaica. While we've all returned to the cooler climate of NY (which has been fairly traumatic especially with this morning's snow), we hope everybody manages to remember the great food, good times, amazing creatures, and latin names of all the organisms of this year's trip.
Once upon a time, our awesome boat captain, Mr. O’Neil, told us divers about a super-secret cavern entrance just beyond Discovery Bay. This morning our dive group set sail (or motor) to this cave. The sea seemed calm from the marine station but was actually quite rough once we got further out into the open ocean. As usual, putting on all our gear (including dive lights for the cave) was a hassle due to the rocking boat. Once every diver was in the water, our professor Brad Peterson led the way to the cave with me right behind him. The cave entrance was difficult to see at first because of all the sediment uproar, but as soon as I saw it I was stunned. The entrance was so small! Brad went straight into the cave so I had no time to look back in confusion to the rest of the group. Due to the surges underwater, I was thrown into the cave very quickly behind Brad. The cave way started out very narrow with smooth rocks and eventually opened up into an expanse that was about six feet above our heads. After about a minute of swimming we reached our final destination that was a small air pocket at sea-level located inside the cave. There were stalagmites on the roof of the cave which was pretty cool to see. After about ten minutes of cave shenanigans we left and spent the rest of our dive exploring the reef of Dairy Bull. Well it’s time to go, and soon we’ll all be back in cold New York. See ya there!
Three guys in a cave.
As the days are winding down, we’re preparing to say goodbye to our beautiful, mini educational vacation in Jamaica. Every day since we arrived, we’ve done some kind of water activity. So it’s only fair that we keep up that traditional until we leave. A few of us went for one last snorkel dive before we get ready to leave. For once, we don’t have to identify every green algae we see. I did see a barracuda, though! Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good picture so you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. Overall, it was nice to just relax and fully enjoy the beauty that Discovery Bay has to offer.
Mandatory underwater snorkel selfie
Jamaican rainbow all the way
Good thing I’m not majoring in photography. You can see the barracuda, right?
Things are winding down here at DBML. As we gear up to take our final exam and began packing (a long and arduous task,) I would like to think back on some of my favorite moments here at the lab. When I first arrived, I was a bit dazed. I went into this trip not even knowing what the lab or our living quarters would look like. Nonetheless, I was excited about this opportunity and when I went to bed that first night I was ready for whatever the next two weeks would bring me. My first snorkel trip happened the following afternoon and I remember feeling nervous and clumsy, bumping into people’s fins and trying my hardest not to touch the rocks (which at the time I believed to be coral.) I was on constant and obsessive lookout for any of the dangerous organisms we discussed, whether it be fire coral or a barracuda (I’d even started to play the Jaws theme song in my head even though sharks aren’t in this part of Jamaica.) It was an east coast approach to Jamaican snorkeling. As time went on, though, I got more comfortable and more adventurous as I snorkeled. I was amazed each time I went out by the beauty of this reef (I’ve even started to take a liking to algae.) My SCUBA training was another part of the trip that I loved. Although I was not able to complete my open water dives due to congestion, I loved perfecting skills in the pool and was able to really start to feel like a marine biologist in training. I look forward to completing my certification this summer. I’m so thankful for this opportunity, being in Jamaica has been an amazing experience and has reinvigorated my passion to do conservation research and protect the Oceans I love. While I’m dreading going back to the cold of New York, I know I’ll be a little warmer this winter thanks to my time spent in Discovery Bay.
Last day of Shorts and Blue Mountain Coffee.
Hello friends and family, Stathi here back for my final blog post of the trip. After an adventure filled day at Dunns River Falls and Ocho Rios it was time to get down to business. From the moment we all woke up there was only one thing on our minds…..the dreadful ID exam. What is an ID exam you might ask? Well basically you are shown either a picture or live specimen of a fish/invert/algae and you are responsible to produce the common and scientific names of that particular species. While at first glance that might sound easy, I assure you it’s no walk in the park. However, luckily for us we have been compiling a list of all the species we have encountered on our trip on the big black board in the cafeteria.
That’s a whole lot of names
On top of that Shay and Lea were nice enough to create study guides for us which made it that much easier to study. Going into lunch morale was high. After all the exam wasn’t until 5:30pm and there was still the afternoon to address any uncertainties. That is when the professors threw us a curveball and announced that the exam would be pushed up to 2pm. [Ed: Several students requested an earlier ID exam so they would have more time for studying for the lab practical exam and we put it to a vote of the students.] With about 40 minutes till exam time everyone dropped their plates and headed to the conference room for some last minute cramming. Finally judgment day arrived and it was exam time. We spent the first half identifying pictures from slides in the conference room. Having finished part one the real fun began as we were brought into the wet lab one by one for part two. Once inside you were one on one with either Brad or Joe and asked to identify about 10 specimens. While stressful at the time I can honestly say everyone came out on the other side unscathed. With the exam done and stress replaced with relief, I am sitting out on the dock here at DBML blogging to you and enjoying the rest of my afternoon out in the sun. See you two days!
Not a care in the world
Today we finally got a chance to explore a little more of the country we have been enjoying for the past two weeks. We went to Dunn’s River Falls, a beautiful waterfall that poses the sizable challenge of rock climbing while water is pouring down on you. After that, we went to Ochos Rios, a little town with shops and restaurants. We wondered Ochos Rios, looking for gifts for our loved ones in the little souvenir shops and the straw market. The straw market was filled with booths selling (nearly identical) souvenirs whose owners relentlessly tried to get us to come over and buy a carved sea turtle or a bracelet. We were able to hold our ground, and even perfected the art of haggling over mugs and magnets. After finally leaving the market we had a nice lunch at a jerk chicken restaurant. Our down time is dwindling as we gear up for upcoming finals, and we are all getting a little sad as we begin to see the fast-approaching end to our trip.
Booth at the Straw Market.
Forget water park rides, try climbing up an actual waterfall! Earlier today, our group took a trip to the famous Dunn’s river falls near Ochos Rios. It wasn’t like anything I ever expected. While two of us sat behind, we faced the falls together. It starts out nice and calm: a little bit of water and a few rocks. Then it gets serious. All of a sudden, there are gallons of water hitting your face and you only have your hands and feet to guide you. Periodically there are large lagoons of water that are surprisingly deep, so make sure you watch your step. By the time we finished climbing the first time, lots of tourists showed up. They all had tour guides and held hands as they picked the easiest routes to get to the top. We decided to go again and show off to the tourists. We whizzed by with our excellent waterfall scaling skills, and made it to the top before they even made it halfway. By the time we finished again, it was time to head to Ochos Rios for some shopping.
Dunn’s river falls is about 180 feet high and 600 feet long. It also empties right into the Caribbean Sea. The falls themselves are absolutely beautiful and if you take a second to look around, you can really appreciate how amazing nature is. I would encourage everyone to put “climb a waterfall” on their bucket list.
None of us were ready for what we were about to face
Our waterfall family photoshoot
Today has consisted of: an early morning dive at “Dairy Bowl” [Ed: Actually, the site is called Dairy Bull — this confusion happens every year.], a beautiful reef with tons of large sponges and soft corals, an impromptu second dive at “Rio Bueno”, and an afternoon of seagrass videos and ID memorization. With the end of the course quickly approaching, we are looking forward to the 50 or so common and scientific names we need to commit to memory before the final quiz. Our final lecture is tonight, meaning a comprehensive study session of all material is imminent.
In spite of all the challenges ahead, the one that most concerns me relates to the fact that it is currently 27 degrees Fahrenheit in New York. The past eight days have been days of sandals, shorts, and sun. With a snowy forecast for homecoming, a rough transition is ahead of us. For our TA, Amber, who had to leave early to defend her dissertation, this change came too soon. For the rest of us, be strong. Winter is coming.
– Joe –
*silently sheds tear
It was about time we got around to properly sorting. We were nearly out of room!
Come on Joe. Get it together.
Well we are coming into the home stretch down here. Now is the time we begin to panic about our upcoming presentations, lab practical, and ID quiz. But instead of hiding in our beds, crying and eating mounds of Guava jam, we have decided to face this upcoming challenge head on.
As of today, we began conducting transect surveys, a long process that involves manually recording what lies directly under the tape every 10cm for 25m (for those of you too lazy to do the math that is 250 data points). Afterwards we transcribe our notes into excel documents and send them off to be securitized by our much more proficient professors. [Ed: Hah! That's what they think, but they'll soon be analyzing those data themselves!]
Now, I know you’re thinking that that is not a lot of work but you’ve forgotten that, in addition to those duties, we have been swimming out and collecting grass tethers on a daily basis, as well as identifying two new species each day. So now that we have filled our ID chalkboard, it is time to manually transcribe that data as well.
Well, at least we have a lovely waterfall climb to look forward to on Sunday. Although I’ll leave that story to Stathi.
Hey, there! As the days here are getting closer to departure, I am definitely going to miss my time in Jamaica. The past two days especially have been intense, but with bright sunshine, and clear waters, it’s hard to feel too tired.
Although, I got a minor case of seasickness during our trip to Rio Bueno, my snorkel dive was totally worth it. We all (SCUBA divers and snorkelers) saw amazing creatures, like a sea turtle.
Afterwards, we did transects’, in which we counted and recorded three types of fish, inverts, and algae. It required us to move along the tape, and write down what species we saw and their distance from the path.
Once we got back, we assembled in our rooms, took a quiz, and headed out to this delicious Jerk Chicken restaurant for dinner, that is not too far from the laboratory. As we ate and shared both funny and semi-embarrassing stories, we all got to know each other more than before. We unquestionably had a wonderful time, and I am absolutely going to miss such a great group of individuals who undeniably added to the incredible experience I had in Jamaica doing research.
Jerk Chicken Restaurant.
It’s always beautiful in Jamaica.