About the Fish Collection

The Collection

The VIMS Ichthyology Collection began as an uncataloged teaching collection in the 1950s, but has grown to house extensive cataloged holdings of fishes from Chesapeake Bay and the middle Atlantic Bight, as well as large and diverse holdings of demersal deep-sea fishes from the western North Atlantic. VIMS also became the repository for the fish collection of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory (Solomons, MD) in 1978. The CBL collection consists primarily of freshwater and estuarine fishes of the upper Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. In addition, a smaller collection from Virginia Commonwealth University was acquired in 1985. The collection also has holdings of Virginia freshwater fishes; including a nearly 40-year series of collections from the southern Appalachians; the freshwater holdings were enhanced substantially by accession of the University of Richmond (UR) collection in 1993.

The collection contains approximately 20,000 cataloged lots of fishes comprising 128,000 specimens in 247 families. Of these lots, 16,000 are computer cataloged using MS Access for Windows. The computer records are fully searchable by object and locality fields and reports based on these data are available.

The curator welcomes and encourages requests for loans, exchanges of material, and visits from interested researchers. Please address queries to the curator, [[ehilton,Eric J. Hilton]].

Facilities & Equipment

The collection is housed in Nunnally Hall, a state-of-the-art vertebrate ecology and systematics laboratory, thanks in part to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded in 1992. The 4,600 square-foot building, dedicated to Moses D. Nunnally, Jr., provides 1,300 sq. ft. to house the collection. In addition to the collection, Nunnally Hall contains associated rooms, including

  • A large, well-ventilated room for processing acquisitions; performing necropsies on large fishes, sea turtles, and cetaceans; and for storage of specimen tanks
  • Two research and teaching laboratories
  • An X-ray facility
  • A curator's office
  • A library

The collection is stored on 550 sq. ft. of compactor shelving units that allow for 4,600 sq. ft. of shelving space. The specimens in the collection have been transferred from 40% isopropyl alcohol to 70% ethyl alcohol. The majority of specimens are now stored in screw-top glass jars with polypropylene lids and polyethylene liners. Larger specimens are stored in 5-gallon glass carboys, 35-gallon stainless steel coffins, and three 500-gallon fiberglass tanks. Computer-generated wet labels are being added to all lots.

With support from a recently funded grant from the National Science Foundation (September 2009), the VIMS Ichthyology Collection will be undergoing a new phase of improvements, including the installation of a digital x-ray system, reorganization of the storage areas, upgrading the cataloging and storage of the growing tissue collection, and the completion of sorting and cataloging the backlog.