Working on the line transect projects together and helping each other remember the scientific names of all of the flora and fauna
It’s day 11 of our trip to Jamaica and it feels like it all went by so fast! I had a lot of fun snorkeling, going on boat trips to drop off BRUVS, but now it’s time to really hunker down and study. We have 2 days including today before we have to take our final exam. Everyone is busy working on their line transect analysis projects and studying for today’s quiz on the latest lecture. The stress level is slightly higher than before since due dates for projects and exams are slowly inching closer and closer, but we all make sure to take well deserved study breaks every now and then to relax by playing cards, snorkeling, diving, or just sitting outside to talk and watching the stars together. So everything here in Jamaica is going well and we are keeping our sanity by balancing the time to study and relax together.
Hmmm… there’s not much to update you guys on since I know my other classmates have already talked about doing the actual line transects, going to the Green Grotto Caves, and eating at Ultimate Jerk Centre. Oh there is one thing that I’d like to mention even though it happened two days ago, Scarlet let me drive the boat to Rio Bueno, which I thought was pretty cool! Of course we didn’t go as fast as he usually drives the boat and he did take over when we got closer to the fishing lines, but I thought it was pretty fun. Also I’m sorry Auntie Tillie, but my Gators hat now belongs to my “imaginary” sea turtle since it flew off my head while I looked up at a frigate bird on the boat ride back to the lab. So my sea turtle friend is now representing the Gators for you all the way here in Jamaica.
Just a note for all of the worried parents out there, mine included, we took these pictures while we weren’t really moving at a port that we stopped at since we had to wait for the other boats. Also once again Scarlet is the best boat driver ever!!!! He’s awesome and driving the boat was pretty fun!
Okie dokie well it’s time for me to start my second line transect project so I have to go. It was nice updating you guys with these blogs, but this is my last one so enjoy the other blogs from my fellow classmates and we’ll see everyone back home on Friday! Well hopefully if our flight isn’t delayed or cancelled by the big snow storm. Ugh that would be the worst! Stay warm in New York guys!
My plate of fried chicken and rice and beans did not disappoint.
With the two weeks coming to an end, the vibe is beginning to change very slightly in our group. With tests coming up, assignments due, and the thought of returning to chilly New York are filling our minds, the stress level in many students is increasing. A field trip to Dunns River Falls and Ocho Rios was exactly what we needed to return to our state of pure relaxation that we were experiencing from day one. The first part of the trip began at Dunns River Falls, where we hiked up the waterfalls (yes, actually in the water falls). After drying off and changing, we headed over to the city of Ocho Rios.
Phenix, Andrew, Albert and myself enjoying our lunch in Ocho Rios.
Here, we had the opportunity to shop around, get lunch, and experience Jamaica. We split up into groups and began our adventure. Since we were all starving, my group and I decided to immediately look for somewhere to have lunch. After much searching for the perfect spot, we came across a tiny restaurant with a small menu written on a white board. We decided to give it a shot and I am glad that we did. The food was DELICIOUS! Some of my classmates took the opportunity to try curry goat. I stuck to what I know and got the fried chicken dish. Regardless of our choices, we were all very happy with our meals. After we finished up lunch (and only slightly struggled to figure out the proper tip in Jamaican dollars), we walked across the way and found an ice cream shop. I was too full from lunch, however, others treated themselves to ice cream cones and sundaes. We finished up our time in Ocho Rios experiencing the straw market and shopping. Dont worry mom, I bought you something, too. Now we’re back on campus and ready to continue our hard work. I couldn’t have asked for a better day with the best people around.
Stopped at an ice cream shop!
My happy place.
The first two or three days seemed to last weeks. Everyone was trying to get to know each other and figure out their place in this melting pot of students. People are of all different walks of life here, originating from their own educational background, seemingly separating us. But as time progressed the long days seemed to shorten and are now flying by. As a class we have come together to support each other offering help to those who needed it and willing and eager to learn from each other. It is scary to think that our two weeks together is almost up and it is time to leave our little slice of tropical heaven to head back to snow covered long island. I have really enjoyed my time here and have made new friends that I otherwise would have never met or gotten to know on such a personal level. The things I have learned about the coral reef and gotten to experience in person will stay with me the rest of my life along with the friends I have made.
A family who eats together stays together.
The classmates taking the opportunity to snorkel before our exams and before our departure.
As our trip comes to a close, our class takes their time to appreciate the reefs and all we’ve learned. With our students taking their final snorkeling and diving trips, taking in the beautiful scenery, we’ve also been studying for our final exams. We’ve learned a lot of information in a short amount of time. From learning about dozens of species names, including fish, inverts, and even algae’s. We’ve collected many species in our wet lab, which all have studied vigorously. Living with all these new people has been a pleasure each day; we have all bonded on a level higher than we would have back in the states. Each day here, I’ve been thankful to have an opportunity to study at Discovery Bay, and have appreciated everyone’s company.
The most beautiful sunrise to date.
As the semester comes to a close my class mates and I spend more and more time in the classroom completing assignments and memorizing the latin names of fish, marine invertebrates and algae. The day began with the most beautiful sunrise of the semester so far. The sky was a stunning array of oranges, yellows and reds. A stunning dive in the local waters followed as I further my experience as a beginner diver. My dive buddy and I saw several moray eels, so many in fact that we became disappointed because the tails of these eels look like colorful flatworms and neither of us have seen a flatworm. We also saw many beautiful porifera and corals. After the dive many student convened in the classroom to finish our transect assignment and then studied for our daily quiz and studied for our final on Thursday.
Thumbs up for research.
After an early breakfast, the snorkelers gathered in the wet lab to receive instructions about the transect experiment we would be conducting. After we were briefed, Yuliya and I head out to the back reef and set up our apparatus; our objective was to calculate bottom cover and organism density within a given transect line (15m). The bottom cover we were recording included Coral, Sargassum, Dyctiota, Halimeda, Macroalgae, Corralline algae, Turf algae and bare substrate (rock/sand). The fish we were recording were the Parrotfish, Surgeon/Doctor Fish, and the Dusky Damsels. The most recurrent urchin and fish we saw were the West Indian Sea Egg, and Dusky Damsels!
Research in the water!
This exercise was enjoyable and helped me stop and appreciate the nature and beauty of the coral reefs. I never realized how analyzing a certain area gives you so much data. When we finished doing our transect experiment it was lunchtime, and we were told we were going off campus on a field trip! This was the first time we have gone out since we have been here and everyone was super excited.
Me and Chedd posing for a selfie by the trees
The second Monday of being in Jamaica and it already feels like we have been here for months. While that phrasing usually indicates a negative situation this has been quite the opposite. With just four more days to spend in the area I am dreading going back to the snow awaiting me in New York. Being secluded to the immediate area of the Discovery Bay Marine Lab for the time being, it was a refreshing experience to be taken off campus for a tour of the Green Grotto caves. A hideaway for slaves and pirates during the period of time where the Island was under control of Spain, the caves have since become a tourist attraction where residents and foreigners alike can explore the basic inner workings of the tunnel system.
An opening in the cave where you can see trees protruding.
Tour guide Chedd gave an excellent tour of the area that was strengthened by his humorous narration and description of the history. Giving a few people, including myself, nicknames of various celebrities, Chedd led a very informative tour explaining to us what the different areas of the cave were used for and mentioning the more popular historical figures such as Black Beard and Captain Morgan who used to utilize the area for their escapades. Following the tour with a trip across the street to the Ultimate Jerk Center [Ed: a local dining establishment] it was a perfect way to end the first off campus trip of the MAR 388 study abroad journey to Jamaica.
Pulled pork, pulled chicken, a deck of cards, a group of friends and at least an hour of down time. Gabriel begins shuffling the cards as Horia, Marissa, Justina, Deeana, and me wait. We sit silently and listen to the cards smacking down on each other. The aroma of chicken and the warm air fills my soul with satisfaction. The cards get separated and its finally time to play. Deeana proclaims and states that the best game to play is Egyptian rat screw, an hour of freedom offers us the opportunity for new card games, we agree whole-heartedly. Little did we know that both Horia and Deeana have had years of experience and know tips and tricks to crush the competition. The cards start flying, first 6, then an 8 then another 8… Bang! Horia’s hand slaps the table and takes the cards. (Apparently doubles means, if you’re fast enough and smack the pile on the table, two cards of the same kind show up your allowed to get them). Again we begin to throw cards towards the center of the pile. I place a 3 card, Deeana places a 4 card, then Gabriel places a 3 card and we all swing our hand towards the pile… a nano second later after the laughter and chaos which has just occurred blows over Deeana ends up with all the cards that were in the pile. This rule is called sandwich, if you have a two cards with the same number with one card of a different number in between it means the cards are yours. This process continues for about 20 minutes and before we know it Horia ends up with all the cards. We played a few more rounds and called it a day but the moral of the story is, don’t play card games with Horia if you want to win.
Here are a few divers, Will, Brad, and Frankie, swimming through the canyon.
This is a shot from below in the canyon.
Here you can see the lovely fake bar they have set up for pictures.
Here is the ever elusive scorpionfish that uses camouflage to blend into its environment.
This last week and a half has been a whirlwind and it is hard to believe it is almost over. During our time here, many of us have taken every opportunity we have to head out into the bay. Some of us have developed a mindset of, “Might as well do as much as I can while I am here.” This involves numerous night snorkels after dinner, quick snorkel trips in the morning, after lunch, before class, and even getting up at 6:00 am to get on a boat and dive before 8 am, allowing us to easily get in a second dive before the water gets choppy in the afternoon. Those diving have been to several beautiful locations in the last week and have seen a number of crazy things that mere pictures do not do justice. One place we went to, the Canyon, had a split between the 30-foot deep reefs that dropped down to about 120 feet. Not only that, but it also had a fake bar set up with a few benches and some empty bottles of Jamaican Brewed “Red Stripe” sitting on a small table, perfect for photos. The one thing, however, that makes these dives incredible, is the vast array of life we find down there. For example, today at Dairybull, another dive site, I was finally able to find a scorpionfish, which I have been looking for since day one. The amazing part about this place is that every time I go out, I find something new. It is too bad we can’t stay here longer.
Sleep deprived and waterlogged, but happy as ever.
The corals, sponges and other organisms that we saw on our dive at Rio Beuno were some of the most beautiful ones that I have seen so far on the trip.
Today, we had the opportunity to go for a dive/ snorkel at a site called Rio Bueno. At first, we werenÕt all going to go in one trip because we wouldnÕt have had enough room on the boat and enough dive gear for all of the divers to go at once. However, as I was waking up for breakfast this morning, Yulia brought some good news. She told me that there was room on the boat for more people and I was able to join on the dive. I arrived at the docks and found out that Snow, Scarlett, and Skeggy were all available to take us out on the boats and we had enough gear for all of those who wanted to dive. I went on the boat with Brad, Deana, Albert and Shane. Before going to our dive site, we stopped to deploy more of our BRUVs. All went smoothly and we were on our way! We arrived at the site and met up with the other two boats. We got all of our gear on and got in the water. As we started diving around, the beauty that surrounded me immediately blew me away. We followed Brad and then he drove straight down about twenty feet. We had arrived at the wall. Once we were settled along the wall, we were greeted by a Southern Stingray (one of my favorite marine species). We explored for a bit, reaching a max depth of about 65 feet. When we were done with our dive, we surfaced and boarded back on the boats. Skeggy took us on a mini tour up the river before we went to retrieve our BRUVs. The water was calm and the sun was shining. What an awesome way to start the day!
The Southern Sting Ray that greeted us along the wall during our dive today.