Ecology of Reefs in Jamaica - Coastal Carolina University
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Coral Reef Ecology in Jamaica

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CCU has more than 30-year history of offering Maymester courses in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Students gain a substantial exposure to the biology and ecology of an archetypal Caribbean fringing reef. Scientific descriptions of the reefs of Discovery Bay, including the biota and underlying geological framework from the basis of modern coral reef science in the Caribbean. Students engage in directed undergraduate research where they conceive, plan, and execute a project that caters their sub disciplinary interests in marine science. Most students gain substantial SCUBA diving experience. Field trips vary from year to year based on student input, but have often include a rain forest hike, waterfall excursions, a cave tour, visiting local market towns, and a boat tour of a naturally luminescent bay. This faculty-led program highlights the organization, structure, productivity and biological diversity of the coral reef ecosystem with special attention to its sensitivity to environmental and anthropogenic disturbances. For more than 30 years, students and faculty from CCU have traveled to the University of West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Abroad, our Chants gain firsthand experience, earning three credits by preparing an independent faculty-supervised research project, which teaches critical research skills that will set them apart in the job market after graduation. To prepare for their time abroad in May, students will use the preceding spring semester to develop a research proposal that supports their own interests and the goals of the education abroad program. After the group arrives in Jamaica, students can dive, research, study, and enjoy the tropical coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea.

Additional Requirements: No immunizations or visas are required for travel to Jamaica. Dive certification is highly recommended as a portion of the course fee covers boat and dive expenses. Students should seek permission from Erin Burge before applying.


Course Information

Students must enroll in both of these courses. 

MSCI 477 Ecology of Coral Reefs.
Instructor: Erin Burge 
Course Credits: (3 credits).
Prerequisite: permission of the instrutor, successful completion of MSCI111/111L and MSCI 112/112L, and internationally recognized SCUBA certification. 

This course is implemented as a "research travel" opportunity for marine science majors/minors. It is strongly recommended that students have also completed MSCI 302/302L. 

MSCI 499 Directed Undergraduate Research in Jamaica.
Instructor: Erin Burge
Course Credit: (3 credits).
Prequisite: contract must be approved by the instructor and the department chair by the time of registration.

Structured undergraduate research projects conducted with faculty direction and participation, or within the context of an approved off-campus internship. Projects explore marine or related problems using scientific method. One conference and no less five laboratory or field research hours per week. Exceptional research projects may be adapted into honors theses, undergratuate publications or peer-reviewed publications. 


Program Leaders

Erin B‌urge, Professor, Department of Marine Science, 843-349-6491
Erin Burge ha‌‌s been involved with the Jamaica coral reef ecology program since 2007. He has been a certified SCUBA diver since 1988 and completed over‌ 300 scientific dives in and around Discovery Bay. His research interests include environmental immunology, molecular physiology, and molecular biology of marine invertebrates and fishes. At Coastal Carolina University, Burge has participated in projects ranging from using underwater videos to study fish populations, molecular tools to detect parasites, and evaluating ecological changes on Caribbean coral reefs.

Steven C. Luff, Dive Safety Officer
Steve Luff has been diving since 1977, became a scuba instructor in 1993, and is a graduate of the marine science program at Coastal Carolina University. He serves as scientific dive safety officer and scuba program instructor for CCU where he has certified thousands of students as divers. Steve has been the dive safety officer and dive master for the Ecology of Coral Reef courses in Jamaica since 1996 when he did his own field research for his senior thesis. His attention to safe diving practices and 20 years of experience diving the north-central coast of Jamaica have given him experience with and a unique knowledge of the local diving conditions, environments, and marine life that can be valuable assets to the students conducting field research and data collection.

Accommodations and Meals

Students will stay in dormitories located on-site and owned by DBML. Each dormitory room sleeps four persons and has its own veranda and bathroom. The dormitory building also has a large dining room/sitting room/lecture hall and a fully equipped kitchen.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided at DBML, with the occasional group meal at local restaurants near the facility.

Cost to Participate = Program Fee $4631 + Tuition $2496 + Tech Fee $30 + Out-of-pocket Expenses $895

The tuition for this program is for Maymester term.

Included in Program Fee: 

  • Roundtrip airfare from U.S. to Jamaica; accommodations while in country; most meals; planned activities and excursions; local transportation; and emergency medical insurance.

Not Included in Program Fee:

  • Tuition
  • Estimated out-of-pocket expenses not covered by program fee: $525 for SCUBA gear rental, souvenirs, snacks, COVID testing; $185 for meals; $40 for optional excursions and activities; and $145 passport cost.
Discounted Tuition for Education Abroad Students: $416/credit
CCU credits  Program Fee Tuition  Technology Fee
Expenses (estimate)
Cost to
6 credits $4631 $2496 $30 $895 $8052


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Due
Deposit Oct. 27, 2021 $300 (refundable until commitment deadline Dec. 4, 2021)
Remaining Program Fee Payment  Feb. 11, 2022 $4331
Tuition and Technology Fee Payment May 7, 2022 $2526

After acceptance to the program, the payment of the program fee as well as payment of tuition can be made online through WebAdvisor or in-person/by phone through Student Accounts. Tuition charges are distinct and different from program fee charges. Please note that payments made with a debit or credit card will be charged a service fee of 2.7 percent. For more information about methods of payment, visit Student Accounts.

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