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Maymester in Jamaica: Ecology of Reefs

  • Location: Discovery Bay, Jamaica
  • Program Dates: May 10 - June 1, 2018
  • Travel Abroad Dates: May 15 - June 1, 2018 (to be confirmed)
  • Program Fees: $4,094 (not including tuition)
  • Online Application
  • Application Instructions & Eligibility Requirements
  • Courses Offered
  • MSCI 477 (Ecology of Coral Reefs) - 3 credits
  • MSCI 499 (Directed Undergraduate Research in Jamaica) - 3 credits

For nearly 30 years, students & faculty from CCU have traveled to the University of the West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory (DBML), in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Here students learn about and gain firsthand experience with coral reef ecosystems.

Students participate in a three credit course,  MSCI  477,  Ecology  of Coral  Reefs,  where  they  learn  about  reef structure, productivity,  and diversity,  and they get to directly observe what they learn while diving on the reefs.  The students also prepare an independent, faculty - supervised research project that fulfills three credits of MSCI 499, Directed Undergraduate Research.
The students prepare for the trip, which happens in May, by spending time during the spring semester researching and putting together their projects.  Once at DBML, students take part in researching, diving, learning, and enjoying the tropical coral reefs.

Students engage in directed undergraduate research leading to the production of a conference-style presentation and a formal research paper. Most students gain substantial SCUBA diving experience. The field excursions vary from year to year based on student input, but they have included visits to a naturally bioluminescent bay, cave tours, rain forest hikes, visits to an urban fishing enclave and a sustainably managed aquaculture farm, cultural and sporting exhibitions, and in depth exposure to the food and culture of rural Jamaica.

Course Information

This program 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.

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

MSCI 477 (Ecology of Coral Reefs). (3 credits) This course is implemented as a “research travel” opportunity for marine science majors/minors. Prerequisites include permission of the instructor, successful completion of MSCI 111/111L and MSCI 112/112L, and internationally recognized SCUBA certification (ie: NAUI, PADI, SSI etc.). It is strongly recommended that students have also completed MSCI 302/302L. As part of the research portion of this course students enroll for an additional 3 credit hours of MSCI 499, Directed Undergraduate Research. Exceptional research projects may be adapted into honors theses, undergraduate publications or peer-reviewed publications.

MSCI 499 (Directed Undergraduate Research in Jamaica). (3 credits) (Prereq: A 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.

Faculty & Staff Leaders

Steven LuffDr. Erin B‌urge, Professor, Department of Marine Science • 843-349-6491
Dr. 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, Dr. 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.

erin burgeSteven 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.

Additional 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.

A passport is required for travel to Jamaica, but no immunizations or visas are required. Dive certification is highly recommended as a portion of the course fee covers boat and dive expenses.

Students must get permission from Dr. Burge before applying.

Accomodations & 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 of the Program

Cost of the Program = Program Fees + (Number of Credits x Tuition Rate)

In-State Students ($357/credit)

CCU credits  Program Fees Tuition  Cost of Program
6 credits $4,094 $2,142 $6,236

Out-of-State Students ($432/credit)

CCU credits Program Fees Tuition Cost of Program
6 credits $4,094 $2,592 $6,686

Included: Roundtrip airfare from Myrtle Beach to Jamaica, accommodations while in Jamaica, ground-based transportation, meals, diving fees, organized activities, host-institution lab fees, and emergency medical insurance. 

Not included in Cost of Program: 

  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses: $110 for 6-7 meals and optional excursions not covered by program fees.  Students wishing to rent SCUBA equipment should expect to pay an additional $225.
  • Students will attend classes on campus prior to departure, and will need to secure housing either on campus or in the local area after Spring semester ends. Housing and other living expenses while on-campus are not included in the above program fees.  Students should confirm with faculty leaders the date of departure before securing housing. 

Payment Schedule for Program Fees and Tuition

Program Fee & Tuition Schedule Due Date Amount Due
Deposit November 1, 2017 $300
1st Payment December 8, 2017 $1,265
2nd Payment January 12, 2018 $1,265
3rd Payment February 12, 2018 $1,264
Tuition April 20, 2018 In-State: $357/credit
Out-of-State: $432/credit

Deposits can be made in-person at Student Accounts (Baxley Hall) or over the phone. After acceptance to the program, payments can be made either online through Webadvisor or at Student Accounts.  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

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