The Virginia Institute of Marine Science celebrated its annual open house on May 20 despite the rain clouds that blanketed the region.
Susan Maples, VIMS Associate Director of Advancement and Director of Outreach, says “Even though we got a little wet, the rain certainly didn’t dampen the attendees’ spirits. They still really enjoyed the exciting activities and events that spark interest year after year.”
Focusing on the theme of “Healthy Waters,” this year’s event profiled how VIMS’ research in Chesapeake Bay and around the world helps protect and restore marine ecosystems. Attendees learned how scientists use the latest technology to detect harmful algal blooms, understand the impact of microplastics, and track oil spills and other pollutants. Other theme-specific activities offered throughout the day included 10-minute “fast talks” from researchers as well as games inside the Kids Pavilion.
John Wells, VIMS Dean and Director, says “Marine Science Day offers our visitors a unique glimpse into how VIMS research provides practical solutions that benefit Chesapeake Bay and the world’s oceans, and this year was no exception.”
While some fan-favorite activities were scuttled due to the weather, other mainstays went on as scheduled. Exhibits showcasing research on jellyfish, crabs, eels, and more were staffed by VIMS scientists and students who were on hand to answer questions. Visitors learned how research at VIMS helps monitor fish and plant populations, find and remove marine debris, and track the impact of climate change on habitats, among other projects.
Popular tours included a look at how oysters are bred for aquaculture in the Oyster Hatchery; an up-close view of seagrasses and the animals they harbor in the Seagrass Greenhouse; a glimpse at some of the 35,000 species in the Nunnally Ichthyology Collection; and an opportunity to observe wetlands and waterfront gardens in the Teaching Marsh.
Maples thanked the more than 180 faculty, staff, students, and volunteers who contributed their time and efforts into making the day a success. “We are always so appreciative for the people who help make the event possible each year,” she says. “It would be impossible to pull it off without their help.”
Maples and Wells thank the sponsors of Marine Science Day, whose support alongside that of faculty, staff, students, and volunteers make the yearly event possible. This year’s major sponsors were 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union, Dominion Energy, Ferguson, The Owens Foundation, Canon Virginia, Inc., Phillips Energy, Inc., C.A. Barrs Contractor, Inc., York River Oyster Company, Rick & Libby’s, BayPort Credit Union, and Rappahannock Concrete.
Seafood Cooking Demonstration
This year’s edition of the annual Seafood Cooking Demonstration was led by Chef Wade O’Neill, Culinary Arts Faculty with Hampton City Schools, with more than 50 people packing into the demonstration kitchen in Watermen’s Hall. Enlisting audience members to prepare the dish of the day, corn maque choux, O’Neill provided attendees with three different variations on the recipe—cooking tilapia, salmon, and shrimp separately.
Lisa Ayers Lawrence, marine education program leader in Marine Advisory Services at VIMS, notes that Chef O’Neill took the time to answer questions about any and all cooking topics throughout the demonstration. “He would explain how to properly cook a dish and the science behind it,” she says. “It was impressive!”
Costume Contest Winners
During the Marine Life Costume Contest, a highlight of every Marine Science Day, participants dazzled attendees with their unique and creative handmade creature and plant costumes. This year’s grand prize winner, Noah Coles, wowed judges with his puffer fish costume and won a $50 gift certificate to the VIMS Gift Shop. Winter Schroder and Tori Scott’s angler fish team effort won best group costume, while Olivia Fitzgibbons’s fab ‘water beetle’ costume won most creative, Hannah Mawyer won most original for her lion’s mane jellyfish outfit, and Caleb Sawyer’s horseshoe crab costume won the best representation award.
Art Contest Winners
Every year, VIMS staff select the artwork for Marine Science Day programs, posters, and t-shirts from entries submitted by local artists of all ages. This year’s grand prize winner, Bryor Coles, won for her depiction of a helpful crab picking up litter along the Bay bottom.
Winners in the K-8th grade category were:
- 1st Place: Bryor Coles
- 2nd Place: Michelle Eno
- 3rd Place: Kevin Martell
- Honorable mentions: Serenity Resto-Torres, Nicholas Primich, Franny Early, Noah Coles, Robert Pelleli, Michael Marston, Hannah Chen, and Wyatt Shele.
Winners in the High School/Adults category were:
- 1st Place: Madison Dashiell
- 2nd Place: Erin Coles
- 3rd Place: Tannie Brown
- Honorable Mention: Juliette Doumayrou and Paula Dye
The People’s Choice Award, selected by fans of VIMS’ Facebook page, went to VIMS’ Juliette Doumayrou and Paula Dye.