Dayne Buddo, marine biologist
Avia Ustanny, Gleaner Writer
AT THE break of day, Dayne Buddo heads for the open sea. Buddo, born in St. Mary and taken to Kingston at an early age, has always loved the ocean, underwater. He has made a career of it too. Buddo, 26 years old, is a marine biologist.
As a boy, his family left St. Mary when his father was shot by gunmen while at his workplace. Shot in the back with a Magnum, the bullet bruised his spine and ruptured his bladder and other organs.
"He was in a coma for weeks," Buddo recalls. "He was transferred to hospital in Kingston, and we had to move with him."
From those times, he remembers "it was a struggle from the get-go, but my parents did not allow us to want for the important things. We always had something to eat, no matter how small it was."
His parents worked hard to send him to the University of the West Indies for his first degree. Recently, he made them proud when, as one of only 12 people worldwide, chosen to attend an intensive course in Coral Reef Ecology at Bermuda Biological Station, he finished second with a grade of 95 per cent. He was the only Caribbean representative. Buddo is also a Ph.D candidate in Marine Studies at the UWI. He should gain this degree in June 2004.
Most important to him, he says, is that he loves what he does. Now, at five o'clock every morning, he makes tracks from his home in Portmore for the Marine Laboratory in Port Royal, where he slips into his wet suit and goggles, takes the boat out and dives into the deep blue waters.
At the Marine Lab, owned by the University of the West Indies, a 12-hour work day includes exploring the waters for about six hours. The researcher prefers this time just before complete daybreak. Early morning is when the sea is calmest and when he can observe his pet project, green mussels.
Buddo's research area is the oyster-like green mussel which has taken up residence in the waters of the Kingston Harbour. His Ph.D, is slated for completion in June of this year, "The Ecology and Biology of the invasive Indo-pacific Green Mussel, Perna viridis, in Kingston Harbour Jamaica."
The mussel, brought to the island by ships travelling from other areas of the world, are vigorously displacing native species such as oysters and sponges, competing heavily for space. Buddo is looking at the ecological impact of the creatures. Hours of diving, using his boat to move from place to place, is involved in the venture.
At 2 p.m., lab work and analysis begins. The lab, as Buddo describes it, is the centre of all research on Kingston Harbour. The marine lab team is also looking at the mangroves of the area extending to the Cays.
But, from his seaside base, Buddo concentrates on the mussels, for which he is also looking at the possibilities of economic purposes, or mariculture.
"They are growing in such large numbers that we might as well just grow them in the sea," he said.
In about two years, he states, the island may go into mussel farming for the first time. The mussel, he says, grows really fast and is a high end product with very low inputs.
Current problems are the presence of heavy metals and bacterial coeliform in the water of the harbour where under-treated effluent from Kingston's nearby settlements flow into the sea. The levels of pollution in the harbour will have to significantly change before healthy mussels can be harvested from it.
Harbour pollution, Buddo states, continues to increase and something has to be done about it soon. The Kingston Harbour is not yet a dead sea, but the presence of organic matter makes it the most polluted body of water in the Caribbean.
Right now, one cannot see the bottom of the harbour. "It's all green, covered by phyto-plankton which loves the nutrients that flow from settlements into the harbour."
With the level of sewage treatment not yet up to required standards, the under-treated effluent flowing into the harbour has caused fish to die. One good sign, the researcher notes, is that the dolphins are still around. "I see dolphins on a regular basis, as far away as Ferry."
Dayne Buddo feels it is a privilege to be able to build the required database which will be the foundation of future mussel research.
He loves his job and has started a programme to ensure that others will too. Buddo started the marine programme for high schools in 2001, beginning with Immaculate Conception High School where he was a part-time science teacher. Students were eager to discover the sea from behind their snorkels. Now dozens of them have been introduced to the marine environment and taken around Jamaica by the marine biologist.
Students learn such things as why there needs to be a closed season for lobster. "Until people realise why they need to care for the environment, all environmental management strategies will be for nought," says Buddo. Many of his students have decided to make a career out of Marine Biology too, with several of them now a part of the university undergraduate programme. The young scientist is particularly proud of this.
Although he hopes to continue to do research in the sea for some time to come, he also wishes to make a career of lecturing at the University of the West Indies. Buddo's passion for marine biology is twinned with a love for cricket. The student of Wolmer's Boys' School played for the Sunlight Cup, for the under-14, under-16 and under-19 teams and then played for Jamaica on an invitational team to Connecticut in 1997. In that year he also played on the senior team in the United States.
Buddo was also one of the youngest players in the Kingston Cricket Club, where he debuted at age 11. Playing on the Jamaica team, he said, was the fulfilment of his cricketing dreams.
He wanted nothing further, he said, as he could not imagine living a life where one's every move, or lack of it, was determined by selectors. He switched to the sea.
Seated in the lab at Port Royal, the scientist tells Outlook, "I will work here forever, even if I don't get paid." He is at home where the mussels grow. And remembering the sacrifice of his parents in helping him to achieve his dreams, he said, "I owe them a lot, and I hope that one day I will become half the parents they are."
We are sure he will. Dayne is set to get married this year to his girlfriend of five years, Tehandi Wedderburn, who is a medical student.