Dispatch from Fulbrighter in Jamaica

UWIHonors Alum Lauren Fuess  (’12) is spending her Fulbright year at the University of the West Indies working in the Discovery Bay Marine Lab.  Of her time in Jamaica, Lauren writes that “my first four months have provided me rich opportunities to get involved in a wide variety of scientific projects and to network with a number of international researchers from the University of West Indies and elsewhere.” Beyond gaining crucial scientific research experience, Lauren is gaining significant cultural experience as well. “Even after four months here in Jamaica,” Lauren writes, “I continue to learn more about the culture and ways of the diverse people who live here.  Their hospitality and sense of community never ceases to amaze me.  Everywhere I go I feel welcomed regardless by the people I meet.” Please read more about Lauren’t work–in her own words–below. 

 When I first landed in Kingston, Jamaica over five months ago, I had a basic idea of what research goals I wanted to accomplish, but no real idea of how exactly to do that. It has taken five months and some changes to my research plan, but things have finally begun to take shape. I came to Jamaica to study the genetics of coral immunity. Jamaica’s reefs, while not known for their perfect condition, provided an excellent case for studying coral immunity to disease in the field.  Additionally, Jamaica’s rich tourism and fishing industries allowed for the opportunity to network and work with the locals to develop realistic solutions to their environmental problems.

Shortly after arriving in Jamaica, I took a trip to check out the Discovery Bay Marine Lab and there I found inspiration for my project.  The University of the West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Lab is situated on the coast of one of Jamaica’s Marine Protected areas, yet there is a large bauxite loading facility on the coast of the same bay.  After making this observation, I decided to focus on studying the impacts of this facility on immune response of corals in the bay.  I am still waiting on permits for this project, which should be coming any day now, but in the meantime I have become involved in many other projects here at the marine lab.

Since moving to Discovery Bay in mid-December, I have become actively involved in the National Lionfish project, working with Dr. Dayne Buddo’s Marine Invasive Species Lab.  The project focuses on studying and developing management strategies to be used to handle the invasion of lionfish around Jamaica.  My work typically involves helping with collection of lionfish (live and dead), processing of data from collected lionfish, assisting with lionfish surveys, and helping with outreach and public education.  Additionally, I am beginning a new study looking at the colonization of lionfish on different types of habitat.  This project requires collection of live lionfish which will allow me to spend time with local fishermen discussing issues pertinent to the lionfish project and to coral ecology.  Finally, I am assisting with a pilot study being used to develop a Caribbean competent of the AQUACAM project, which uses remote cameras to collect data on fish populations.  All of these opportunities have allowed for great networking here in Jamaica and have helped me expand the skill set I will take with me when I begin graduate work at the University of Texas Arlington next fall.  In addition, the cultural benefits of living in a new country and learning about Jamaicans have been invaluable. I look forward to the next five months of continued academic and cultural learning while I am here in Jamaica.

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