12 Jan AM – Too blessed to be stressed, too anointed to be disappointed

“Too blessed to be stressed, too anointed to be disappointed”

While still digesting our pineapple upside-down cake we got to listen to a talk by Amber about the history of Jamaica last night. Fun fact: Jamaica has one of two flags in the world that doesn’t have red, white, or blue in it! We got to learn more about the history of the reef where we’ll (hopefully) get to dive really soon. Though it’s suffered some setbacks, the creation of the no-take fishing zone in Discovery Bay has really helped the reef to begin recovery and an increase in both fish biomass AND abundance (that’s actually 2 different things).

Looking down at the falls.

Woke up to slightly less windy conditions and cloudy skies. We headed straight after breakfast to Dunn River Falls, an enormous waterfall that many of us managed to scale 3 times, with only minor slipping. As Professor Peterson said, now was the time to go big, and we charged the falls, navigating around massive hand-holding tourist groups and one lady who was crying hysterically. Soaked to the bone and thoroughly happy, we headed out through a mini straw market and survived the twisty passages and aggressive sales pitches guided by Amber. For our Ochos Rios adventure, including grapenut ice cream (yes the cereal, yes delicious), read on…

– Shannon

Jan 11 PM – Winds of No Change…yet.

‘Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red skies in morning sailors warning’ not sure how that translates into wind, but if the wind could die that would be great.

I’m also pretty sure I didn’t see red skies this morning. Regardless, no water for us today- the swimming kind; don’t panic we have water to drink.

The view from the dock.

The view from the dock.

The water is still stunning, and the temperature is still beautiful. It’s just a little too choppy to get into unknown waters. Mind you I’ve seen and been in rougher waters
at Robert Moses, but my mom has given me a healthy appreciation for the ocean. I understand that it will always win and I will always loose and since I’ve never seen what lurks below the surface here, I’ll wait until it gets calmer before ‘Mission Impossible’-ing over some Fire Coral.

But hey! It’s not snowing, the food is delicious and I couldn’t be happier. 2 weeks with minimal wifi! I miss pandora (since I never download music anymore), but otherwise I don’t miss social media at all.

Oh at the cats are pretty friendly; I’ve named one cuteness.

So, until tomorrow when we go explore the falls we will be processing Baited Remote Underwater Videos, or BRUVs, for Global Fin-Print. Word for the wise, audiobooks help with those. Not much to report for today though, just waiting until the wind calms and we can go swimming.

– Rachel

Jan 11 AM – The second day of getting warm.

Hello From Jamaica!

Equipment used by researchers (from Stony Brook and U. West Indies) studying groundwater at the lab.

Equipment used by researchers (from Stony Brook and U. West Indies) studying groundwater at the lab.

The weather is beautiful, but it’s still too windy to get into the water. We’re hoping the wind dies down soon so we can spend as much time as possible collecting reef specimens. We have already started identifying various reef creatures, studying their common and scientific names. So far we have identified 52 organisms ranging from sponges to fish. The lectures so far have been greatly diverse; we’ve studied countless marine invertebrates with Prof. Peterson and a broad spectrum of reef algae with Prof. Warren. Just to clarify not all Algae are plants! They are protists, a common misconception.

Today Prof. Peterson may dive to collect reef samples for us to examine. It is going to be interesting seeing the specimens we have already been studying, but this time in real life.

It has been amazing to hear (TA) Amber and (TA) Colin talk about their research. It’s always interesting to discuss someone’s research with them. This gives one insight into a topic that you would never find anywhere else. It’s also amazing to see how different people view the world around them and what captures their attention.

Most of us have been doing our studying and work outside. It is amazing what one can accomplish sitting on their back stoop writing as the waves roll by! The atmosphere is so relaxing, but yet at the same time very productive.

Alex H.

Jan 10 PM – Wind, wind, go away…

Hello from breezy Jamaica!

After arriving safely from snowy Long Island we got to the marine lab (in the pitch dark so we couldn’t see how beautiful the water really was) and we had a pleasant surprise! There was another group of students studying and sharing the dorms with us, but they were from Canada! They were all pretty shocked that we were from New York but very friendly and welcoming. We sat down and all had our first family dinner and lucky for Dr. Peterson, it was his favorite meal from the marine lab, fried chicken! And he was totally right the chicken was so good!

Waking up at 6:30 AM on winter break really took a toll on all of us. By the end of the day, we were all exhausted even though our second day was pretty quiet. The weather has been very unexpected, with a lot of wind and some rain also! We haven’t been able to go in the water because of the wind, it has made the ocean too choppy, so instead we took some tours around campus and had some lectures to start off our trip! So after our first delicious breakfast and lunch, we had our first lecture, it made me want to jump in to the water and start searching for the creatures we were learning about.

Rough Waters.

Rough Waters.

I think it’s safe to say, we’re all very excited to go in the water and we can’t wait!

Until next time,

10 Jan AM – Hello everyone!

So we have been here in Jamaica for about 24 hours now and let us tell you, it has been a weird mix between rainy, windy and sunny, we’re just as confused as you are, but hey, it’s been keeping us on our toes for the past few hours. Because of the wonderful wind, we haven’t been able to go snorkeling or diving yet due to the intense surf however, it has been keeping us nice and cool under the hot Jamaican sun. Luckily, we have our wonderful classmates to hang out with during the storms.

Featured: the 2017 class fam.

Featured: the 2017 class fam.

Earlier today, our first class period was taught by Professor Peterson and we learned a little bit about some of the creatures we’ll be seeing and others to be aware of. We mainly focused on the organisms that bite, prick and/or sting like eels, urchins and jellies. Some organisms that I really want to see are Spotted Eagle Rays, Fire Coral, and ideally a shark even though they’re not common to Northern Jamaican waters. I’m sure that will make my mom very happy to hear! What I’m looking forward to most in Jamaica is first, becoming a certified scuba diver and then second, being able to apply my knowledge of marine science and ecology within the field, below the surface.

Our second lecture was spent looking at different types of marine plants, but don’t be fooled, algae is NOT a plant, it’s actually a protist. This was heavily stressed by Professor Warren, but luckily, algae is a less daunting topic than Professor Warren’s physical oceanography class.

After a today’s dry day, we’re all very excited to get into the water, especially after learning the basics of the marine creatures we will encounter! We’re still getting settled here in Jamaica, but once the wind dies down a little bit, our adventures in and out of the water will definitely take off.

Fair Winds and Calm Seas,

Jan 9 – Discovery Bay snowfall total = 0.0″. The wind though…

Here they are at the start of the class -- they'll be a bit more tan, much more knowledgeable about coral reef ecosystems, and a bit more fluent in latin (scientific names) by the end of the course.

Here they are at the start of the class — they’ll be a bit more tan, much more knowledgeable about coral reef ecosystems, and a bit more fluent in latin (scientific names) by the end of the course.

The 2017 edition of MAR 388/537 Tropical Marine Ecology has begun. All students (and instructors) arrived here in Jamaica, some after shoveling out their driveways and cars. While we have had zero snow here in Discovery Bay, the winds have been quite strong — strong enough that we aren’t able to get in the water so far (well, we could get in the water but the waves are strong enough that you couldn’t see anything). So instead we’re kicking things off with a 52 organisms Identification scramble and some lectures on invertebrates and algae today.

As an added bonus, a research group from Stony Brook University (and their collaborators) studying groundwater hydrology along Jamaica is at the lab for the next few days, so it’s almost like a (much warmer) satellite campus.

Student blog posts will begin tonight or tomorrow. Expect 1 in the morning and one in the afternoon until we head back to NY.

We (the instructors) love when parents, family, and friends comment on the student posts — especially if you refer to the student by an embarrassing childhood nickname.

Profs. Peterson and Warren

Jamaica 2017 Informational Meetings

We will be holding two informational meetings for MAR 388 / MAR 537 Tropical Marine Ecology.

Tuesday, Oct 11th, 430-530pm, Marine Station Room 215 (Southampton).

Wednesday, Oct 12th, 1-2pm, Melville Library Room W4530 (Stony Brook)

This year’s class will take place from January 8-21, 2017.  If you can not make the informational meetings, please contact bradley.peterson@stonybrook.edu

MAR 388 2016 – Fin

Professor Peterson and Warren would like to thank the student’s of this year’s Tropical Marine Ecology course for a great and productive class.  And we managed to get back to NY before the snowstorm arrived (otherwise we all might still be in Jamaica). Hopefully everybody has found a local supplier of ox tail, goat curry, and guava jam.  Now the instructor’s favorite annual blog post: the Before and After class photos.

BEFORE. Here's the class a few hours after arriving in Jamaica.

BEFORE. Here’s the class a few hours after arriving in Jamaica.

After two weeks in Jamaica, notice any differences ?

AFTER. Notice any differences after two weeks of class ?

22 Jan PM – Final Day

We woke up today with a sense of urgency. We had a transect analysis assignment due at 1pm and our final exam was set to begin at 430pm. The dorms, cafeteria, and lecture room are usually alive with spirited conversation and music and laughing. Today, however, everyone had their heads down into their notes and laptops with headphones in concentrating on projects and studying. We didn’t congregate together in one area like we usually do. Some of us stayed in the cafeteria, some in their rooms, and some in the lecture room with periodic breaks to the helicopter pad to study with a view.

Here I am studying on the helicopter pad while taking in the sea breeze/scenery.

Here I am studying on the helicopter pad while taking in the sea breeze/scenery.

As I was studying today on the heli-pad I had flashbacks to last week. Marissa had been leading Will and I in a short, but necessary, yoga meditation. We discussed that usually during meditation you are supposed to picture your happy place. We paused for a minute, looked around and laughed. We realized that where we were, in that moment, was our happy place. We didn’t want to close our eyes and picture somewhere else – we were there. Crystal clear teal water all around with a light breeze and a coral reef crest in the distance housing all the creatures we’ve come to learn about – this is paradise.

Tonight was our last dinner together as the dysfunctional family we’ve grown to become in this short trip. I can look around at all these people and say with confidence that I appreciate all of them for what they’ve contributed to this experience. Lila taught me that having a genuine passion for what you’re learning about makes the experience more joyous than stressful. Yulia shocked me in how she was able to go from someone who had minimal knowledge on snorkeling, to a certified and bad-ass PADI open water diver. Suzie taught me more about how to approach life and its challenges in this short trip than I’ve learned in my whole life. Deana inspired me when I watched her complete the last leg of her PADI certification as she swam lap after lap in front of the dock without wavering in strength. Alyssa was the first person to say something hilariously sarcastic when we arrived at DBML and really broke the ice for all the joking that followed and brought us closer as a group. Sebastian is one of the most helpful and resourceful people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Phenix really pumped me up when he took on Dunn’s River Falls twice without fear…and he’s a non-life science major. Andrew was the first friend I made on this trip and the first person to make me feel comfortable when we arrived in Jamaica while we talked on line for immigration. Marissa has proven to be a hilarious person and a great friend/yoga teacher. Justina has a work ethic that I don’t think I’ll ever match in life. Hannah’s perseverance inspired me as she smiled through certification complications and pushed herself to climb the hardest part of the waterfall. Albert is far braver than I was at his age. At 18 years old, he threw himself into this program with a bunch of 20 somethings and had a great time. Shane taught me that you can never take enough pictures and never wear enough Superman attire. Gabriel taught me that a swimming limone is the best limone, and for some reason his laugh would brighten my day. Frankie and Will are the kind of men this world needs more of, and I am so happy to be able to call them my friends. Horia taught me that, no matter where you are, it’s important to live and experience the moment. My classmates turned this study abroad class into a life altering experience.

Here we are at our last family dinner.

Here we are at our last family dinner.

Brad and Joe brought out the best in us as students. The way this class was run, and how we were encouraged to explore and learn, really made a difference for us. I will never forget the adventures we went on here and I will never forget Jamaica. I’m taking what I learned here with me wherever I go in life.

Thank you everyone.

Peace, sunscreen, neoprene….Nikki Goodman

22 Jan PM – Stress and Release

Doing our transect analysis assignments this morning.

Doing our transect analysis assignments this morning.

There were mixed emotions this morning when we learned the conditions were too windy to go on our last dive. We were sad to miss out on this last dive, but grateful for the opportunity to sleep and study for our final exam today. Everyone spent most of the day over identification books and laptops, silently mouthing scientific names of fish, invertebrates, and algae. As we were all waiting to enter the wet lab for the oral part of the exam, a full rainbow broke out across the water—it helped take our minds off of the task of impending doom.

The view of the rainbow from the wet lab.

The view of the rainbow from the wet lab.

The exam is over now, and everyone is happy to relax, eat our last dinner, and hang out with all of the friends we made here. It’s been a great trip!

Congratulations to Hannah for becoming a PADI certified open water diver today!
– Lila