A history of marine science in a historical setting

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) was founded as the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory in 1940 through the efforts of Dr. Donald W. Davis, then chair of the Biology Department at William & 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 W&M in 1979.

William & 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. The total number of M.S. and Ph.D. degrees earned by students at VIMS now exceeds 1,000.

VIMS celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1990 and its 75th anniversary in 2015.

  • Established in 1940 as the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory in Yorktown
  • Moved across the York River to Gloucester Point in 1950 to make way for the Coleman Bridge
  • Our 1950s oyster research remains the seminal work on the ecology of these shellfish
  • We began our juvenile fish and blue crab surveys in the 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, with results used by state and federal resource managers to enact or improve shark management plans
  • Our seagrass restoration efforts are the most successful in the world, with nearly 10,000 acres restored to Virginia’s coastal bays
  • We continue to lead the way in developing oyster aquaculture in the 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