Though we are in Jamaica, we are not really on “island time.” So far, our days have been packed with activities, from snorkeling to listening to lectures and, for myself and three other students, taking SCUBA training. Though it is busy there has not been a dull moment so far. I have seen amazing things snorkeling, like a lionfish, an invasive species that Dr. Dayne Buddo, the DBML chief scientific officer and our dive instructor, has spent much of his career focusing on. Mangrove root habitats, patch reefs, and even “the blue hole,” a deep lagoon in the middle of the back reef, are all environments we can access right behind our dorm rooms. Today, I spent much of my time in a beautiful pool working on my confined dives for SCUBA training. Among other things, we worked on recovering our breathing regulator after it falls out of our mouth, putting on and clearing our masks after they have filled up with water, and learning how to become neutrally buoyant in the water (which looks a lot easier than it is.) So far, I am having a great time on this trip and look forward to more to come.
A pool with a view.
Day two was a big learning day for us down here in sunny Jamaica. Joe kicked off the afternoon with a short quiz and an interesting lecture on coral bio. Once we wrapped up the lecture we put on our gear, grabbed our cameras and hit the reef for some hands on work in the field. Today’s snorkel mission was to identify as many organisms as possible, work on learning their scientific names and bring some specimens back to the wet lab for further examination. The professors made it a point to pop their heads up every so often and explain what exactly we were looking at. Brad even picked up a Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber (Holothuria Mexicana) and passed it around.
Sea cucumber hot potato
After snorkeling Brad put things into perspective for us with a lecture on the overview of ecological thought. Dinner was next and the trend of fantastic dinners continued. After dinner we made our way to the wet lab for some more sea grass scraping and to ID some of the peculiar specimens we collected, like this West Indian Sea Egg Urchin (Tripneustes ventricosus) and Banded-Arm Brittle Star (Ophioderma appressum).
TO BE CONTINUED……………………. – Stathi
[Ed: apologies for the delay in blog posts, we lost internet access here over the weekend]
Hey there! It is day two here in Jamaica for us, and acclimating has been easy. The weather has been beautifully warm, but there has been an occasional shower, which is also commonly referred to as “sky juice” here, which is pretty cool!
The other night, right after our lecture we headed into the wet lab- started some awesome experimental work, which requires scrapping a bunch of sea grass and then attaching it to rope. For this transplant experiment, we are taking grass from this side of the bay: where the grass is nutritionally richer, and taking grass from the opposite side of the bay: where the grass isn’t as rich, and placing it on the other side to see if the herbivores are willing to take the risk for food that tastes better. By doing this, we are able to then assess and see if the reward is worth the risk. This experiment has been really helpful by giving me clarity on which research project I choose to do.
The following day, the DITs (Divers in Training) were preparing by getting their scuba gear in order, and going for their first practice dive! Afterwards, we did some more work in the wet- lab for the transplant experiment and then went for a night snorkel to help us gather some algae and invertebrates to help us with our identification task.
So far the amount of work with lectures and labs combined have been both extremely informative, and exciting! We’ve been doing a lot of hands on work, while enjoying our time in Jamaica!
Us night snorkeling. We saw amazing creatures!
Working in the wet lab
Greetings my frost-bitten friends and family members! While it has only been roughly 24 hours since we landed, I think we are all already enjoying the warm atmosphere. While I am sure you all know about the mornings activities thanks to my friend Mike (If not, check out his post!) I am here to tell you about this afternoon! While we still had a lot of fun, it was time to get serious. The deadline to choose which project we wanted to assist in and eventually present on is drawing near. So near, in fact that a few preparations already had to be made for a few of the sea grass experiments. So we hunkered down and got right into it.
Now don't go off bragging to your neighbors and coworkers about how your son/daughter/sibling/friend is working in a lab in Jamaica just yet. We just scraped algae off of sea grass for a few hours. Wait until we actually figure out which questions we want to answer and start really getting into it. Then go tell that annoying neighbor/coworker how awesome we are. Well I better get back in the water, we have a night snorkel planned and I need to get a few more photos in order to start studying for my species ID quiz. See you all soon! Shay
I swear I will eventually get the hang of working this camera.
You take one down, scape it around, 99 shoots left to scrape in the bowl.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Actually it’s just a bunch of Abudefduf saxatilis (Sergeant Major fish) who are fighting bravely and ferociously to fend off invaders from their reef homes. Luckily, the people of Jamaica were not angry organisms such as the Abudefduf saxatilis, rather, they were warmhearted and loving people. Upon arrival, our group was met with astounding amounts of love and genuine care and concern for our comfort and well-being at Discovery Bay Marine Lab located in St. Ann Jamaica.
It did not take long for the lovely kitchen staff to supply us with delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner on our first full day at the research station. In between these precious food breaks, we students listened to a couple of lectures outlining the general ecosystems in Jamaica’s waters. Unfortunately, some of us had to endure a lengthy dive training video in preparation for our certification tests this upcoming weekend. Despite our day of hard work, we were given a large amount of time to snorkel around the lagoon of Discovery Bay with our instructors.
In the morning, our group swam through different ecosystems including sea grass beds, coral establishments, and mangroves. During the morning swim I spotted various species of fish, invertebrates and a lot of algae (most of which I’ll eventually learn the names of). One pretty remarkable marine organism I saw was the Sharptail Eel (Myrichthys breviceps). This creature was nestled pretty firmly under a coral outcrop with only its head pointing out into open water. When I moved around the coral a little more I was able to see the rest of its long body. Myrichthys breviceps has a long cylindrical body covered in purple/maroon skin with bright yellow spots all over. For the first day in the water, I was very happy to be able to see such rich biodiversity and clean waters in the bay.
Myrichthys breviceps in all its glory.
Brrrrhhhh. It sure is cold here in Jamaica!
So all students and instructors have arrived at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab for this year's MAR 388 Tropical Marine Ecology course. We left sub-zero temperatures in NY and got to the lab last night for a delicious dinner of fried chicken. We woke up this morning to a little bit of wind (and rain), but no snow!
Gearing up to begin exploring the bay.
Immediately after breakfast, everybody in the class got their snorkel gear on and got in the water to begin exploring the local marine flora and fauna. And to begin building their plant/invert/fish photo identification library. We even had a rainbow appear over Professor Peterson's head.
Our first course lecture on the physical structure of coral reefs began after lunch and our DITs (divers in training) are doing work this afternoon towards their SCUBA certification.
We'll be posting updates a couple of times a day so everybody back home can follow the student's discoveries and adventures here in Jamaica.