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Virginia Institute of Marine Science

History

A history of marine science in a historical setting

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) was founded in 1940 through the efforts of Dr. Donald W. Davis, then chair of the Biology Department at the College of William and Mary. The Laboratory was named the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and became an independent institution by an Act of Virginia’s General Assembly in 1962. VIMS returned to the administrative umbrella of the College in 1979.

William and Mary’s School of Marine Science is VIMS’ graduate education component. The School, which granted its first Ph.D. degree in 1968, evolved from a Master’s Program in Aquatic Science that began at W&M in 1940. To date, VIMS has granted more than 700 M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in marine science.

Highlights
  • Established in 1940 as the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory in Yorktown
  • Moved to Gloucester Pt. VA in 1950 to make way for the Coleman Bridge
  • Our original building, Maury Hall,  is named after Virginian Matthew Fontaine Maury, the “Father of Modern Oceanography”
  • Our 1950s oyster research remains the seminal work on the ecology of these shellfish
  • We began our juvenile fish and blue crab surveys in Chesapeake Bay in 1955, key fishery management tools that continue today
  • VIMS scientists were leaders in establishing the national Sea Grant and Coastal Zone Management programs in the 1960s
  • Established Eastern Shore Lab in 1962, research there jumpstarted Virginia’s now multi-million dollar hard clam industry
  • Began our annual shark survey in 1973; it’s now the world’s longest-running
  • Our seagrass restoration efforts are the most successful in the world, with 4,200 acres restored to Virginia’s coastal bays
  • We continue to lead the way in developing oyster aquaculture in Chesapeake Bay and the mid-Atlantic seaboard
  • Our campus was a strategic site that played an important part in both the American Revolution and the Civil War
  • Campus construction requires archeological surveys that have recovered both human remains and artifacts from the colonial era and Civil War