Caribbean Coral Reef Ecology Class @DBML

In April 2016 we ran a weekend field course at Discovery Bay Marine Lab for our final year Caribbean Coral Reef Ecology class #UWIMona #Jamaica

2016 Caribbean Coral Reef Ecology Class @DBML

For many years groups of international marine biology students have been visiting Discovery Bay Marine Lab, Jamaica for field courses. This year we wanted to get our class there too and so Dr. Suzanne Palmer and Dr. Dayne Buddo designed a weekend field trip for the final year undergraduate course Caribbean Coral Reefs (at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica through the Department of Life Sciences).

In April 2016 the whole class (41 students) spent four days working at the marine lab.

Class of 2016!

BIOL3409 Class 2016

Snorkel + GoPro to check out the coral reefs …

We had spent the previous few weeks of the semester doing field trips on the south coast of Jamaica from Port Royal Marine Laboratory out on the Port Royal Cays to learn about some of the basics in coral reef ecology plus training and practise in AGRRA surveying. Being based at Discovery Bay for the field course provided a great opportunity for the students to broaden their experience and check out their taxonomy skills across a north coast coral reef. In addition, they assessed the range of different coral nurseries implemented at Discovery Bay and viewed outcrops of the hybrid coral Acropora prolifera for the first time

Back to the lab…
Photo credit: Dexter Colquhoun
Photo credit: Dexter-Dean Colquhoun

Back at the lab the class were trained and got the opportunity for hands-on coral restoration techniques following the methods carried out by the curent Coral Reef Restoration Project, in addition to CPCe analyses for coral, reef, and coral nursery monitoring.

Near the end of the field course we conducted an in-water coral identification test out on the reef with a marked course of tagged corals – logistically quite a challenge to set-up and execute!

What the students thought!
Despite having seemed daunting at the beginning of the course, the weekend trip to Discovery Bay Marine Lab has proven to be one of the milestone moments of my final year experience. 

The sessions were well organized and seamlessly executed. The in water examination went very well, seeing many different types of corals at one location for the first time in the water. I was very excited to have received experience in the water and on different marine environments. The presentation brought to light the major challenges and importance of coral reef restoration as well as the exciting Science behind it. 

The dolphins on Sunday were truly the best highlight of the trip, second only to the closeness and comradery felt among classmates. The actual experience was crucial to cementing course information and appreciating more of our natural Jamaican environment.

Gavin Campbell, BIOL3409 Course Representative
I truly enjoyed my experience at D-Bay Marine lab. It was a fascinating, enlightening and fun experience. The workload was heavy but I didn't mind because I believe it prepared me for the real world beyond undergraduate studies.

Over the weekend I learned a great deal about the history and threats to coral reefs in the Caribbean region. Also, I learned of the various methods employed to restore and prevent complete loss of coral reefs. I got the opportunity to try some of these restoration methods. It was great to get that hands on experience as it granted me a chance to see how some of the techniques and theories taught in class applied to real life.

In the end I left with a heightened interest for marine biology, greater confidence in the water, and deep respect for those already in the field who are working to save and restore our coral reefs. I hope to work alongside them one day.

Jason Champagnie, BIOL3409 Class 2016


A mammoth weekend and a wonderful team effort! Thank-you to all my colleagues in the Department of Life Sciences, PhD students Kimani and Dexter, and the staff at Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory who made this trip happen, and of course to BIOL3409 Class of 2016 for all your hard work and enthusiasm! A very rewarding course and we are looking forward to next year!