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

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  • Location: Discovery Bay, Jamaica
  • Jamaica Country Report (PDF)
  • Program Dates: May 9-June 1, 2020
  • Travel Abroad Dates: May 15-June 1, 2020 (to be confirmed)
  • Cost to Participate: $4,274 plus tuition
  • Application Informationn
  • Online Application
  • Courses Offered
  • MSCI 477 Ecology of Coral Reefs
  • MSCI 499 Directed Undergraduate Research in Jamaica

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 Coastal Carolina University have traveled to the University of the West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory (DBML) in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Abroad, our Chants gain firsthand experience, earning three credits for studying reef structure, productivity and diversity while directly observing what they are learning through dives on the reefs. Students earn an additional 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, participants 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.

Physical Requirements: Students will spend substantial time on a daily basis in and around the water and on boats in oceanic conditions. Students should be competent swimmers and capable of spending extended periods of time in the water (1+ hour). Students must be able to tolerate tropical heat and sun conditions and have no medical contraindications for water activities. Students should be capable of moderate walking/hiking activity in excess of 2 hours over uneven terrain.

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 participating in this program will be enrolled in both of the following courses, for a total of 6 credits

Coursework abroad is designed to highlight the organization, structure, productivity and biological diversity of the coral reef ecosystem with special attention to their sensitivity to environmental and anthropogenic disturbances. Students gain substantial exposure to the biology and ecology of an archetypal Caribbean fringing reef. Much of the early work on the ecology and biology of coral reefs was conducted from and by our partner institution, the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory. Because of the localized development on the north coast of Jamaica, students have the opportunity to directly observe reefs that have suffered greatly from natural and anthropogenic stressors in close proximity to those that are much less heavily impacted.

MSCI 477 Ecology of Coral Reefs. (3 credits). (Prereq: permission of the instructor, successful completion of MSCI 111/111L and MSCI 112/112L, and internationally recognized SCUBA certification [i.e., NAUI, PADI, SSI, etc.]). 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.
Instructor: Erin Burge

MSCI 499 Directed Undergraduate Research in Jamaica. (3 credits). (Prereq: 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 the scientific method. One conference and no less than five laboratory or field research hours per week. Exceptional research projects may be adapted into honors theses, undergraduate publications or peer-reviewed publications.
Instructor: Erin Burge

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 ($4274) + (Number of Credits x Tuition Rate) + Out-of-pocket Expenses

Included in Program Fee Roundtrip airfare from U.S. to Jamaica; accommodations in Jamaica; ground-based transportation; meals; diving fees; organized activities; host institution lab fees; and emergency medical insurance ($1.80 a day for every day traveling). 

Not Included in Program Fee:

  • Estimated out-of-pocket expenses:$110 for 6 or 7 meals and optional excursions not covered by the program fees. Students who wish to rent SCUBA equipment can expect to pay an additional $225. Please note that this estimate will vary based on individual spending habits and does not cover the cost of a new passport. Students should ask their program leaders for more details about estimated out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Pre-departure housing: Students will be meeting on campus in the week leading up to the departure date and must have accommodations during this period.  Students should confirm the departure date with their program leaders before securing housing.
Discounted Tuition for Education Abroad Students: $366/credit
CCU credits  Program Fee Tuition  Technology Fee
Cost to Participate
6 credits $4274 $2172 $30 $110 $6381


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Due
Deposit Oct. 30 $300 (refundable before commitment deadline Dec. 5)
Program Fee Payment Feb. 11 $3974
Tuition and Technology Fee Payment May 9 $2196

Deposits can be made in person at Student Accounts or by phone. 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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