VIMS open house draws record crowd

  • Visitors' Center
    Visitors' Center   Visitors enjoy the exhibits, aquaria, and life-size models in VIMS Visitors' Center during Marine Science Day.  
  • Scallop Eyes
    Scallop Eyes   From L: Madeline Allburn, Isabella Weiner, and Clare Allburn learn what it's like to see the world through the eyes of a scallop during Marine Science Day at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.  
  • Underwater Robot
    Underwater Robot   Chris Petrone (far L) watches as visitors drive a mini-robotic submarine during Marine Science Day. Petrone is a Marine Education Specialist with the Sea Grant program at VIMS.  
  • Touch Tank
    Touch Tank   Visitors examine a spider crab taken from the Visitors' Center touch tank.  
  • Fish Tagging
    Fish Tagging   Jon Lucy (L) explains fish tagging to two young visitors. Lucy is a Marine Recreation Specialist with the VA Sea Grant program at VIMS.  
  • Bottom Dwellers
    Bottom Dwellers   VIMS graduate student Treda Smith talks about weird and wonderful bottom dwellers during Marine Science Day  
  • Fish Printing
    Fish Printing   Young visitors practice their fish and scallop printing in the Children's Pavilion.  
  • Fish Prints
    Fish Prints   A selection of the fish and scallop prints created by visitors to Marine Science Day.  
  • Seafood Cooking Demo
    Seafood Cooking Demo   Kelly Turner, Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Virginia (L), joins with Sea Grant Seafood Education Specialist Vicki Clark (2nd from L) to serve scallops during a Seafood Cooking Demonstration.  
  • whalen.jpg
      VIMS grad student Matt Whalen (L) shows a visitor how to use a microscope to view the small shrimp-like crustaceans that inhabit local sea grass beds.  
  • Hidden Pipefish
    Hidden Pipefish   Visitors learn about camouflage by counting pipefish hidden within sea grass.  
  • DNA
    DNA   Wendi Ribeiro, a graduate student in the Marine and Aquaculture Molecular Genetics program at VIMS (L), shows young visitors how to prepare samples for DNA analysis.  
  • Blue Crab
    Blue Crab   A young visitor examines a blue crab.  
  • Blue Crabs
    Blue Crabs   Visitors learn about blue crabs.  
  • Aquarium Display
    Aquarium Display   A visitor examines an aquarium display.  
  • Zooplankton
    Zooplankton   Kate Ruck shows a zooplankton sample to a visitor. Ruck is an incoming graduate student.  
  • TEM
    TEM   VIMS professor Wolfgang Vogelbein (C) instructs Porter Doughty (L) and Michael Luck (R) in the use of the transmission electron microscope (TEM).  
  • Green Screen
    Green Screen   A pair of young visitors prepare for the Virtual Scientist "green screen" activity. Results of this “Scientist for a Few Seconds” activity will soon be available on the VIMS YouTube channel (  
  • Cake
    Cake   Gummi worms and fish occupy the "seafloor" as part of a hands-on activity in which visitors take "sediment cores" from a chocolate layer cake.  
  • Sediment Cores
    Sediment Cores   Visitors take "sediment cores" from a chocolate layer cake.  
  • cored_seafloor.jpg
      The "seafloor" following sediment coring. Unlike real sediment cores, these cores were good to eat.  
  • Acrobat
    Acrobat   Graduate student Daniel Maxey (R) explains how VIMS scientists use the Acrobat sensor to measure dissolved oxygen in Chesapeake Bay.  
  • Fish Collection
    Fish Collection   Graduate student Dan Dutton (C) describes a specimen from the VIMS Fish Collection.  
  • Seine Net
    Seine Net   Visitors check their seine net for marine life.  
  • Algae
    Algae   A young visitor gets a hands-on feel for green algae.  
  • Shark
    Shark   Logan Miesowitz of Hayes becomes a shark.  
  • Mapping
    Mapping   VIMS scientist Tami Rudnicky explains the intricacies of mapping to 3rd-grader Jasmine Tomson of Gloucester.  
  • Seine Net
    Seine Net   Visitors draw their seine net from the York River.  
  • Parade Prep
    Parade Prep   Students from Yorktown Elementary prepare to march in the Parade of Marine Life.  
  • SCUBA Divers
    SCUBA Divers   Ben Malmquist (L) and Caleb Richardson (R) dressed as SCUBA divers for the Parade of Marine Life.  
  • yorktown_elem.jpg
      Students from Yorktown Elementary march in the Parade of Marine Life.  
  • Scallop and Anglerfish
    Scallop and Anglerfish   Hannah Mclean (L) and Sarah McGuire of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve program at VIMS show off their scallop and angler fish costumes following the Parade of Marine Life.  
  • Deep-sea Fish
    Deep-sea Fish   VIMS graduate student CJ Sweetman shows a deep-sea fish to a visitor.  
  • Best of Show
    Best of Show   Monet Wilson, a 6th grader at Peasley Middle School in Gloucester, won Best of Parade for her seahorse costume in the Parade of Marine Life during Marine Science Day at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on May 30.  
  • Oyster Hatchery
    Oyster Hatchery   Researcher Karen Hudson (R) explains the workings of the VIMS Oyster Hatchery. Hudson is with the Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center at VIMS.  
  • Scallops
    Scallops   Hannah McLean (R) talks about scallops. McClean is with the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve program at VIMS.  
  • Waiting for Waders
    Waiting for Waders   Scott Lerberg (foreground) helps visitors don their waders before seining. Lerberg is Stewardship Coordinator with the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve program at VIMS.  
  • Dip Net
    Dip Net   A young visitor uses a dip net to search for marine life in the York River.  
  • Seining
    Seining   Visitors seine for marine life in the York River.  
  • Tire Pressure
    Tire Pressure   Sandi Buchheister of Hayes (L) looks on as VIMS professor Rebecca Dickhut (R) checks her recommended tire pressure.  
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The Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s annual open house drew an estimated 2,000 visitors to VIMS’ Gloucester Point campus on May 30 for a day of fun and learning.

“Marine Science Day provides a wonderful opportunity for us to share our research, education, and advisory service activities with the local and regional community,” says VIMS Dean and Director John Wells. “This year, more than 150 faculty, staff, students, and volunteers contributed to make the day a resounding success.”

Susan Maples, outreach coordinator at VIMS, estimated that this year’s crowd was the largest in the 6-year history of the event. She says “Sunny skies and a full slate of engaging activities brought a steady stream of visitors throughout the day.”

Activities ranged across the 40-acre VIMS campus, from the new Seawater Research Lab to the VIMS beach on the York River. Because the featured animal for this year’s event was the scallop, several activities and displays focused on this once-troubled resource, which with the help of VIMS scientists now sustains the most profitable fishery on the East Coast.

In the Children’s Pavilion, younger visitors were able to practice scallop printing and don a mask that allowed them to see the world through a scallop’s many eyes. They also got a chance to drive a robot sub.

Logan Miesowitz of Hayes becomes a shark during Marine Science Day. In Watermen’s Hall, Chef Kelly Turner of the Culinary Institute of Virginia sautéd scallops during her seafood cooking demonstration and tasting. Visitors also learned about VIMS’ Antarctic research, sharks, deep-sea creatures, the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program, the marine debris removal program, VIMS’ juvenile fish and blue crab surveys, and shoreline mapping. Another display enticed visitors to visit the VIMS Fish Collection, one of the largest and most diverse on the East Coast with more than 128,000 specimens in 247 families.

Displays and activities in Chesapeake Bay Hall focused on blue crabs, marine conservation, multi-species fisheries monitoring, jellyfish and other zooplankton, seagrass ecology, and “Wondrous, Wiggly Bottom Dwellers.” Visitors had the chance to peer through high-powered electron microscopes, learn techniques of DNA analysis, and investigate biodiversity by classifying different types of pasta.

Two of the most popular activities gave visitors a chance to extract “sediment cores” from a chocolate layer cake, and to picture themselves as practicing scientists in a “green screen” video booth. Results of this “Scientist for a Few Seconds” activity will be available on the VIMS YouTube channel ( within the next few weeks.

VIMS’ lower campus featured the ever-popular seining activity, which allows visitors to collect, observe, and release small fish and invertebrates in the York River. Visitors were also able to tour the VIMS Oyster Hatchery, Seagrass Nursery, and Teaching Marsh.

A final highlight was the Parade of Marine Life, which gives local citizens and school children an opportunity to celebrate their favorite marine creatures through art. Featured animals included jellyfish, penguins, dolphins, blue crabs, fiddler crabs, anemones, sharks, squid, SCUBA divers, and many others. Monet Wilson, a 6th grader at Peasley Middle School in Gloucester, won Best of Parade for her seahorse costume. Nathan Stall, a 1st-grader from Yorktown Elementary, took the award for the most original animal or plant costume with his rendition of a puffer fish.

Learning took place even in the parking lot, as VIMS staff worked with incoming visitors to note their recommended tire pressure and pump up any tires that might have been underinflated. Underinflated tires reduce gas mileage and increase a driver's carbon footprint, with negative effects for Chesapeake Bay and the coastal ocean.