17 Jan AM – Nothing’s Better than Swimming with the Fish

Hello everyone!

The water this morning before going diving.

Today is a great day because yesterday was our exam, which means, WE ARE DONE WITH OUR LAB PRACTICAL! Of course we’ll still have work for finding new species to identify and knowing their scientific names but it’s much nicer not having to worry about a huge exam all the time. I feel like this week is going to consist of a lot of water time to make up for the lack of water time we’ve had thus far. But what’s also wonderful is that, the wind had calmed down nearly right after our exam last night so my theory is that our stress from the exam was causing the wind. Yes, that is exactly how science and the atmosphere works.

So the exam happened but afterwards, a bunch of us went out last night to go night snorkeling! It probably would have been really amusing (but equally as sad…) because all of us were spazzing out. There were a few phases that each person experienced upon getting in the water to night snorkel, and they are as such:
1. Get all of your gear—cameras, wetsuits, fins, mask & snorkel, and of course, the all-important waterproof flashlight.
2. Find out what area of the dock doesn’t have Diadema (long-spined urchins) stuck to the wall—super painful to get stuck by one upon getting in the water.
3. Decide that the ladder is the safest bet and put your fins on before getting into the water, but be sure to look to make sure there are no urchins, scorpionfish or other terrifying things that can sting you.
4. Crawl into the water, terrify yourself with the flashlight, forget how to breathe with your snorkel, giggle at yourself, accidentally terrify someone by having your fins brush against them, and repeat.

After all of us learned how to be normal human beings in the water at night (I hope someone gets my Spongebob reference), we then carried on our way. We found two octopii, some lobsters, an eel, and more Donkey Dung Sea Cucumbers (please look them up) and Urchins than we would want to be around on a given day.

A small octopus that we found last night!

Today Rachel, Shannon, Alex, Tonny and I spent the first few hours of our day finishing our first two open water dives to finally become certified scuba divers! We were near a sand patch near the eco-reef in Discovery Bay but there weren’t too many creatures to get distracted by, which is good for this circumstance I guess. We did see a huge Southern Stingray, probably 3.5 feet in diameter, and Rachel saw a lionfish! All in all, if feels amazing to be in the water. Here’s to the next few days of exploring Discovery Bay!

Fair winds and calm seas,
Bri

16 Jan PM – Finally Got To Dive!

The DBML dive boats!

On our way to becoming divers! Today we had our first diving experience. Being underwater at a depth of 20ft for the first time was intense. Although it did take a few times to equalize my ears, it was a wonderful experience. We got to see various different species of coral and fish. We even got to see a large southern ray. Since we completed 2 of our training dives we are half way to becoming certified divers. Today we plan to get back in the water to snorkel to work on our collections for the identification quiz in the coming days.

We had our lab partial exam last night, it was hard but fair. There was a lot of material on the exam, but we all studied hard and conquered it. It was a very interesting exam to say the least. Walking around the lab looking for index cards, while being eaten by mosquitos was a new experience. It’s a an experience I wouldn’t go looking for, but I’m glad I had it.

Hoping to get certified tomorrow, so we can continue our dives.

Alex H.

16 Jan AM – The Ultimate Jerk: The Wind

After exploring the Green Grotto caves with our tour guide Brian we headed across the street to the Ultimate Jerk restaurant. Vegetarians and carnivores alike were stuffed to the gills. As usual, most of us left room for grape nut ice cream from the adjoining “Ultimate Sweets and treats” shop. The fruitcake was avoided.

We got back to the marine lab around 6 and had an evening to study before our exam today. It was a pretty quiet evening but our TA, Colin, went for a night snorkel and saw two stingrays and some scorpionfish! We are hoping to get out on a night snorkel tonight after the exam- my goal is to see an octopus before we leave!

Unfortunately the wind proved too much again this morning for the DITs (divers in training) and our open water dives were postponed until tomorrow. A little wave action didn’t deter a group of us from going snorkeling though, and we got a fair amount of pictures in the mangroves and at the reef crest. We saw a spotted eagle ray again on our way out, as well as some gorgeous parrotfish on the reef.

Colin is working on a project with Diadema, a long spined urchin, and after snorkeling we dried off in the sun watching him dive around trying to collect rocks for them to eat algae off of. The surge was pretty strong so it looked a bit of a difficult trip. Not one has died yet though! Urchins, that is, not Colins.

A Diadema in the wet lab.

Lastly, we had to release the sea hare, but not before it squirted bright purple ink all over. TA Amber brought it, still leaking purple, back into the ocean. May she eat algae forevermore.

A sea hare in the sea table.


-Shannon

15 Jan PM – Down down to the cave!

A part of the cave entrance.


These last few days have brought us lot of new information, not only about the species we are analyzing in the lab, but also about the history of the island. Jamaica is a very particular place full of natural and manmade attractions. Today we witnessed one of the greatest caves on earth. I’ve never felt so interested and intrigued anywhere else. Each rock served a purpose since before the colonization of the Spanish on the island. The cave was originally shelter for the natives and later on for the freed slaves.

Within this wonderful place, we were able to find bats, snakes, marine life, limestone and much more. One of the most interesting facts about this place was the fact that a portion of the cave was once used as a bar. You can see where the stage and the bar were located not many years ago. Every corner has a history behind it and it’s a place I would love to visit again. The government has helped preserved this cave, its history and even the original trees within in. However, the best part of the day was to see the adventurous side of Professor Peterson and his ability to go through a limbo hole that not everyone was willing to go through.

The Peterson’s genetic abilities.

– Juali

15 Jan AM – Insert Wind Pun Here

Regardless of the wind, I am still happy to be here. Not going to lie, I’d rather be IN the water than look at it longingly, but nonetheless, I’m still happy I made this trip. I find that more often than not, I forget why I’m studying marine science because I am eyeball deep in papers and projects. It becomes this abstract idea that I can intellectually explain and understand, but in the same way someone might explain a vacation from years and years ago. The ability to be able to perform field work, whether on Long Island or better yet in Jamaica, is a solid reminder of why I want to do this and why I think it’s important.

For instance, you hear about plastics in the ocean but you don’t really think about it. The amount of plastic garbage that I’ve seen littering the coast and washing ashore is astounding. But there again, until you SEE it, you don’t think about it.
I’d love to tell you all more about the crazy cool things we’ve seen in the water but sadly we’ve only been in the water once and that was 2 days ago now. The hole (a 45m-ish drop in the bay) was overwhelming though. It was a bit disorienting how little I thought I saw vs how clear the water actually was. I thought I was only seeing a couple of inches but it was probably closer to 15ft but the distance didn’t really matter since it was just blue. It was an interesting reminder of how tiny I am in the larger picture… or at least a reminder that as much as we would like to think we are the top of the food chain (and you can argue we are) we are nothing but a guest in the ocean and we are far out of our element.

Ominous skies.

We’re going to the Green Grotto later, so those posts will probably be more fun that this one. But don’t worry, while we may be a little cranky that we are swimming we are well watered and fed and sleeping fine!

– Rachel

14 Jan PM – Hello everyone!

First of all, I have to apologize that I wrote my blog late. I should have writen my blog yesterday, but I went to scuba diving training yesterday until 5’o clock, and I just fell asleep after dinner, because I felt very tired.

Yesterday, Alex and I went to a swimming pool to learn scuba diving. So we stay in the water for 5 hours. That was freezing under the water. In the morning, we went to the swimming pool and started the training. Before we started the training, we floated in the swimming pool for 10 minutes. Then we suited up and learned something about the equipment. During the training, there were a lot of interesting things. For example, we need to breath underwater without the mask, clean the mask underwater, move out and move in the weight underwater, and ascent like superman after we finish diving.

Finally, we finish the training before dinner. That’s a wonderful day. And now, I’m so excited about the scuba diving two days later. Hope the wind will be stopped 2 days later.

This is an ocean urchin we found in the lab. It looks like a hedgehog.


This is an ocean organism we found in the lab. It looks like a hedgehog.

14 Jan AM – The Wind Is BACK and better (worse) than ever!

Yesterday mother nature was messing with us and gave us a couple of nice hours to go snorkeling so we had our hopes high that we’d be back in the water today. Bri and I went snorkeling around the bay for a little bit but came quickly back to the dock because we were struggling with our snorkel gear. And like she mentioned, it was so hard to see anything and we didn’t want to hurt any of the coral, or us, by smashing into it.

Meanwhile, Juali was with Professor Warren learning how to snorkel and she loved it! It didn’t even seem like her first time, she was great! So after she became a pro, she took me where she went with Professor Warren, and we saw so many baby fishies! They were so cute but scared of us… especially when I went to try and touch them!

After lunch, the divers were told to be at the dock at 6 AM and the snorkelers at 8AM, and we couldn’t have been more excited to go back into the water. Unfortunately when we woke up, the plans had changed. I’m starting to think that Mother Nature is angry with us and she doesn’t want us in the water!

Yet Another Dry Day (for the divers — the ground is wet from rain).

This morning I had a pretty unique alarm clock! I woke up to Alex banging on our bedroom door and Bri saying “SHHH they’re [Juali and me] are still sleeping!” He came to tell Bri that the dive had been canceled so we all just rolled back over and went back to sleep until breakfast. After breakfast we all started working on identifying fish by their scientific names, which let me tell you, latin is not an easy language to learn! And thankfully we were all sitting inside while doing this because it started down pouring so much that even the power went out!

Latin is NOT easy! Some of our scientific names!

We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that the weather will get better soon and well be able to go snorkel/ dive!

Send some warm thoughts to Jamaica for us!

-Jess

13 Jan PM – More wind

Hello From Windy Jamaica!

Rough Seas At the DBML Docks!

Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t lightened up. Its beautiful, but the winds still persist. Since its been too windy to dive we’ve spent our time study and learning new material. Right now everyone is working on collector’s curves and other data input systems. This is helping us to learn and identify the various fish and the scientific names.

Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to do our PADI open water dives, since the last 2 people finished their pool dives yesterday. The open water dive shouldn’t take too long so hopefully there will be time to collect specimens after being certified. Hopefully the ocean water won’t be as cold as the water we practiced in.

It is thought that the exam is going to be pushed up to this weekend, so when the nicer weather does arrive we will have more time diving and less time worrying and studying for the exam.

The weather is supposed to be nice next week so there should be plenty of time to dive!

Alex H.

13 Jan AM – Hello Again…

Hello everyone!

Bri’s spotted eagle ray.

I am happy to announce that the wind has left the island, for at least a few hours! As I am writing this, what I have done thus far today is snorkel around Discovery Bay and scuba dive a little bit. It was incredible to be in the water finally.
At the beginning of snorkeling, we were just getting the hang of things looking for species of algae and invertebrates to add to our water tables in the wet lab. My buddy, Jess and I spent around 30 minutes snorkeling around in 6-foot-deep water, while both trying to find corals and avoid hitting them.

Unfortunately, the water hadn’t calmed down by then so there was a lot of suspended sediments, making it very difficult to see a distance greater than 3 feet in front of you. Regardless, it was so refreshing to be frolicking around the water.

After Colin, Professor Brad and Amber came back from their diving excursion in the morning, Brad asked us if we wanted to snorkel out to the reef crest, which is about a quarter mile swim round trip (with added time getting lost like Shannon and I did…). BUT I GOT TO SEE A JUVENILE SPOTTED EAGLE RAY, and let me tell you, I was so excited. If you read my blogpost from a few days ago, you’d know that a spotted eagle ray is something I was desperately hoping to see. We continued to snorkel around for a while until Shannon and I popped our heads out to find the rest of the group only to find that we had drifted so far from our three other group members.

After that snorkel, Shannon, Rachel and I had to practice some of our dive skills so that we can take our open water dives soon to finish out Open Water Dive Scuba Certification. We did it right before lunch so we were all pretty hungry, but “oh, it’ll take 8 minutes to finish this up” turned into 40 minutes due to surging water, not enough weight to counteract our buoyancy and low-visibility water. We were all so happy that plates of food were made for us to eat when we got back.
Anyways I’m off to class now but I will leave you with a nice tip for snorkeling with a wetsuit on; don’t forget to put sunscreen on your hands because they will burn.

Fair Winds and Calm Seas,
Bri

[Title for blog: The Wind! It’s Gone!]

12 Jan PM – A day to remember

A perfect day to have fun, eat and nap on our way back.

The weather has given us a different game play. Regardless of the new changes, we’re all having a great time in Jamaica. Today we had the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the island on a road trip. Some of us were able to see horses, goats, trees and interesting things we’ve never seen before. After climbing a waterfall, we were able to go to Ocho Rios, a very colorful and creative place. The streets of this area of the island are filled with painting, handmade sculptures and a local market that supports the lives of hundreds of people. Their daily work sustains their family and they are willing to bargain to convince the buyers and take some money home. It was a totally new experience for me to bargain and obtain certain items for a much cheaper price. These people will always give you a price, then a discount and if you offer then less they would take it as well. They greet you with the most flattering phrases as a technique to call your attention and convince you to choose their store over any other. We all had a great time going up a waterfall, buying souvenirs for our families, eating at the local restaurant and exploring this beautiful island. On our way back some of us were so tired, we couldn’t resist the urge to a take a nap.

– Juicy Juali