Nikki scouring the reef.
Our BRUV deployment trip started off normally; the boat pulled out onto smooth water at 7:20 this morning. After dropping all three cameras, we stopped for a dive (or snorkel) at Dairy Bull. Brad, Nikki, and I went to check on tiles for a project for one of Brad’s former grad students. We had to make sure that all the submerged tiles were accounted for. As we swam up to a cove to meet the snorkelers, we saw plenty of Lionfish, filefish, sea sponges, and a ton of clothing. Each diver and snorkeler surfaced with arms full of clothing, including a pair of shoes, several pairs of khaki pants, boxers, and a piece of a wig. Brad and the boat’s captain, Scarlett, hypothesized that a large group of kids decided to go swimming and lost their clothes in the process. A passing spearfisher told us that last time they found clothes floating this close to shore, they found a body with it.
We were glad that didn’t happen.
An elusive tile, used by Brad’s former student as part of a study.
Where the light green turn blue
“Hey are you coming with us?” yelled Gabrielle. The shore was approximately five meters behind and I was contemplating getting back on land but the bay was calling. My face smacked the water and I started swimming in his direction. Before I knew it my goggles were foggy and I popped my head out the water. Gabrielle and Yuliya (Fakhr) looked over at me and then pointed out to sea and said, “We’re heading past the reef crest” I nodded and thought to myself “where the color changes and the waves are crashing why not”. We began swimming, our legs kicking, our hearts pumping, and our minds imagining the cool things we’d see. The bottom of the bay began to get closer, at first we didn’t notice, but before long it was half an arms length away from our stomachs. We swam a bit more and stopped in an area that had some legroom. This time we deliberated out of fear, a high five meant “STOP” and sticking your index finger out while rotating it meant “lets turn back, we were scared because we were only a few inches away from the coral. Gabriele lead the way and although we were almost beached on the coral, like three fat killer whales, we actually made it. We made it passed the waves crashing into the dark blue water.
Have to memorize about 70 different organisms for the ID exam.1
Being at the lab here at Discovery Bay is definitely an opportunity I am grateful to have. I feel like everywhere you look there is something new you can learn. Feel like being in the water? Go snorkel. Feel like examine some creatures up close? Go to the wet lab. Being a business major on the trip I have a lot to learn. Luckily for me, the other students are mostly bio majors or marine science. This means I have plenty of time to pick people’s brains. The professors Brad and Joe make the lectures easy to understand and are always willing to answer your questions. I may be confused at times but everyone here is really patient and good at making me feel calm about the class. When I first came here the class work was overwhelming because I didn’t know any of the terminology but I feel like I am learning more and more everyday. My main goal is to try my best and try to have fun while learning. Now that SCUBA training is over I am looking forward to being in the water all the time learning about her organisms. I am also excited to go on the boat with Joe and Brad and help them with their research.
-Alyssa (certified SCUBA diver)
The crew on their way.
For the past week I have been stuck at the surface entering the pelagic region with the restrictions of my own breath. This has been a great experience and you still get to see a lot of life but as you force yourself to depth the commotion tends to startle and scare the aquatic life back into their hiding places, but yesterday and today everything changed for me. With the completion of two dives to 35 ft yesterday and two dives to 60 ft today I can happily say I am now a PADI open water certified diver. Breathing underwater allows you the opportunity to become much more intimate with the world below. The fish, feather dusters and other easily startled organism give you no mind continuing on with their daily activates allowing you to become a part of their world. Entering these deeper waters out of reach for my breath was truly awe inspiring, new life forms that I have only experienced through films and photos availed them selves to me and I must say I’m hooked. I will never forget looking up the side of a patch reef from the bottom and watching shoals of hundreds of fish with their dazzling colors and memorizing patterns dancing about the corals and sponges. I look forward to spending a lot more time at the bottom and seeing what secrets the ocean has in store to me.
This was Gary enjoying some algae after he was placed in the tall tank.
A few days ago, after an adventurous night snorkel session, we returned to the docks and found a Lettuce Sea Slug [Ed: The professors would like to note that this is a spotted sea hare, not a lettuce sea slug. Good thing the exam on names isn’t for a few days!] sitting on the ramp we use to exit the water. Naturally, we picked it up and brought it to the wet-lab. We named it Gary. We brought Gary some algae for food and some sand a two mornings later. We found that it enjoyed escaping from its tank and going to the lower, shallower section of the wet-lab table. So we placed its food and sand in the taller tank, and as we were trying to pick it back up to put into the tall tank, an extremely concentrated jet of deep purple liquid shot out of Gary’s back, filling the entire area with a deep purple color.
Here you can see the deep purple color produced by our good friend Gary.
The three of us there at the time had no idea that they did this, so we thought we might have killed it. After brief and frantic paranoia, and confirmation from one of our professors that this was only a defense mechanism, we picked it up and moved it into the tall tank, where it seemed very happy to find sand and algae.
This is Gary the Lettuce Sea Slug [Ed: Nope, still not a sea slug, but a spotted sea hare], who we found at night and nearly stepped on when exiting the water after a night snorkel session.
Believe it or not guys, we’re not just chilling in Jamaica, snorkeling and diving every chance we get. There’s some serious work that we need to do, and the days are counting down until we have to regurgitate all the common species of fish, invertebrates, and algae that live in the lovely bay in our backyard. Presented with the daunting task of memorizing and recognizing 76 different organisms with complex latin naming, some of us have to get creative in the limited time we have. A small late night study session after a long day of physical activities maybe wasn’t the best idea for Andrew, Gabriel, and I, but you’d be surprised at how well you can make mnemonics when you’re lacking sleep! Some of our best ones include scorpion plumâ (Scorpionfish, Scorpaena plumieri), my Richs broceps (Sharptail eel, Myrichthys breviceps), and a can thirst Bahamas (Ocean surgeonfish, Acanthurus bahianus). Definitely having fun in all aspects of our trip here!
PS: I would like to note that I was able to produce those common and scientific names on the spot. Progress!
Looking at some of these while awake really makes me question some things!
Hi there from Jamaica!
Ever since we have arrived in Jamaica, each day has been a tightly packed fun-filled exploration of the water, the creatures in it, and learning about their relationships. Each time someone goes out to snorkel or to scuba dive you are sure to see something new and amazing. I have to be honest, at first I was a little nervous about even snorkeling in these waters. I’m not the greatest swimmer nor have I ever snorkeled before, but I’m glad I’ve gotten the opportunity to snorkel here in Jamaica by these beautiful coral reefs!
A school of silversides that we found in the mangroves.
I am not joking when I tell you that each time I have been in the water I have seen something different and exciting. Just yesterday I went out with Gabriel to snorkel in the waters just off the dock of the lab and we were able to see a beautiful school of silversides swimming in the mangroves. We spent most of the morning snorkeling a bit deeper in the water and then we decided to make our way back for lunch when all of a sudden Gabriel starts pulling me and is pointing at something. My goggles were a bit foggy at the time so I’m thinking to myself “What the heck is he pointing at?!?! I don’t see anything?!?!” This continues on for a good minute until I finally see this long skinny outline of a fish. Then it hits me and I’m like OH MY GOD!!! IS THAT A BARRACUDA??? OH SHOOT!!! Of course I had to take a picture and a very poor quality video (hey it’s not easy trying to film while swimming to follow a fish), but yeah that was the highlight of my day yesterday.
Brad jumping into the water to find the BRUV. He dove down to 120 ft.
Today was a different adventure both good and kind of bad. I got to go out on my second trip to help deploy and retrieve BRUVs (baited remote underwater videos) for a research project that we are doing and go snorkeling by Dairy Bull. This BRUV trip wasn’t as exhilarating as my first trip since the waves weren’t as rough and this time we had a pretty good idea of what we were actually doing. However, even though we were acting as a well-oiled machine after setting the first BRUV the second BRUV deployment went awry. We measured the depth to be around 48 ft, which was in the range of our 100 ft depth limit. So as we were setting it up, we may have drifted a bit to deeper waters and ended up deploying out BRUV in approximately 190 ft deep water. Yeah so long story short not only on my first BRUV trip did we lose a gopro, but now we upped the ante and lost a whole BRUV rig. Apparently Andrew and I bring bad luck to these BRUV trips. Thus that was the not so good part of the day, but on the bright side we got to see a cuttlefish in broad day light and it was very cute. Brad and Joe may go out tomorrow morning to see if they can recover the lost rig so I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
Well it’s time to go eat dinner now so I’ll keep you guys updated in the upcoming days about my adventures here. I’m definitely looking forward to what is in store tomorrow!
It may be hard to see but the cuttlefish is in the center of the picture tentacles flared and everything. So cute!
P.S. To my family squish the momo. <3 Thanks love you guys.
This is the view of the surrounding area from the poolside.
Today I completed my pool section of my SCUBA certification. From 8:00 am to 3:30 pm I learned and practiced essential techniques that will be used during the next two days during my four open water dives. At the end of the lesson our instructor had a competition to retrieve the most coins on the pool floor, which my partner and I won and as a reward we were promised a jerk chicken dinner from an authentic Jamaican restaurant. As a student of the marine sciences, I look forward to receiving my certification in order to explore the seas and broaden my horizons.
Practicing our technique in the swimming pool.
Today the DITs including myself had to be up and ready at the dock at 7am. This meant we skipped breakfast so we all grabbed some snacks and brought them with us. It was a beautiful day and I was eager to get back to training. The plan was to get finished by lunch at 1pm so we could eat with everyone else. We finished pool dive 4 out of 5 at 12:45 which meant we would miss lunch, it was okay because the head of the kitchen, Precious would save us plates. The food has been different every meal but no one is ever disappointed. There is also always bread to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so that is my go-to when I’m hungry in between meals. Back to the diving training… It has been a very rewarding experience so far. In the beginning when Dayne (our instructor) told us that we would have to swim without a mask or remove all our gear we were all terrified. Today we had to remove our weights, gear, and he turned our tanks off so we were able to see what it was like when we run out of air. Tomorrow we will begin the last step of our certification, Open water dives. We will be doing two tomorrow and two Friday and then we will all be certified to dive up to 60 feet. Overall I am happy that I signed up to get certified and I am already planning my next diving trip.
Phenix Nunlee in his full SCUBA kit.
Today I began my second day of SCUBA class. The only problem with this second day is I had to miss breakfast and delay lunch by about 2 and a half hours. Just the day before we were just taking our first breaths under water. We now in our second day of confined pool dives are learning about how to perform effectively in the water. Yesterday we mainly focused on basic tasks such as clearing our SCUBA Mask and obtaining neutral buoyancy. Today we where able to put our gear on effortlessly numerous time and we took our SCUBA kit off underwater. However, the most interesting part of the day was the when we planned a drive to find some coins at the bottom of pool. The original plan that was employed by my driving buddy and me was have one who collected coins then the other would hold the coins. This plan was destroyed when we where told we had to hold the coins in our mask. Adjustments where made to the strategies which was mainly grab as many coins as possible now. Also, the reward for collecting the most coins was jerk chicken or pork for the dive partners. I had beat out many of my fellow competitor in getting coins. While my dive partner ran into dive kit difficulties which stopped them from participating from the main coin grab section. I was very successful in grabbing coins but, it was not enough and lost by one coin. It has been a very busy but, interesting day.