Marine Science Day draws 2,000+ with educational exhibits & hands-on activities

  • The 22nd annual Marine Science Day attracted more than 2,000 visitors, who were assisted by over 250 volunteers.
    The 22nd annual Marine Science Day attracted more than 2,000 visitors, who were assisted by over 250 volunteers.    
  • Young participants in the Marine Science Day Marine Life Costume Contest & Parade.
    Young participants in the Marine Science Day Marine Life Costume Contest & Parade.    
  • At the VIMS Beach, attendees of all ages waded into the water to use seine nets and explore their catch.
    At the VIMS Beach, attendees of all ages waded into the water to use seine nets and explore their catch.    
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Visible from the Coleman Bridge that connects Yorktown and Gloucester, VIMS’ waterfront research and education facilities often pique curiosity. Marine Science Day, our marquee outreach event of the year, offers a closer look. This year, the 22nd annual Marine Science Day attracted more than 2,000 visitors, setting a recent attendance record.

Exhibits at our free, family-friendly event were as exciting as they were varied, from Chesapeake Bay blue crab touch tanks and fish gut dissection demonstrations to seagrass safaris and pollinator gardens. At the VIMS Beach, attendees of all ages waded into the water to use seine nets, assisted by experts from the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia who helped them identify their catch.

The Litz family enjoyed hands-on learning during their first visit to Marine Science Day.“It has been a great event for the whole family,” said Mouna Litz, who was attending with her husband and three children. The Litzs moved from Germany to Gloucester last year and had heard about VIMS, but it was their first time visiting campus. She added that while the seining was their family’s favorite moment, “we loved all the crafts and all the different hands-on activities. There was something for every age group.”

Several research groups used the day to mark key milestones. The Center for Coastal Resources Management celebrated 50 years of conducting their Shoreline & Tidal Marsh Inventory with guided tours of the Carl Hershner Teaching Marsh. Meanwhile, the Multispecies Research Group marked the 50th anniversary of their longline shark survey with a hands-on shark-measurement activity and several sets of shark jaws on display.

Two seafood cooking demonstrations by Chef Winslow “Win” Goodier, executive chef and culinary director of Nuttall’s Store, reached full audience capacity as he taught, cooked and distributed delicious samples. Vessel tours were another popular attraction, as three of our research vessels were open to the public at the boat basin, where participants could additionally observe a seminar on scientific diving. For the second year in a row, VIMS also put on a marine-related career fair, sponsored by Bank of America, where 165 attendees learned about careers in marine science and related fields.

The enthusiasm for learning was palpable throughout the day, according to Dominion Energy Vice President Offshore Wind, Joshua Bennett, who is a member of the VIMS Foundation Board and volunteered at the event. “This was my first Marine Science Day,” Bennett says. “As a board member, I was struck by the abundance and quality of community engagement led by staff and students alike. I lost count of the number of times I heard ‘that is so cool!’ after explanations of questions asked. The diversity of the visitors was reflective of our local communities and that really made me proud to be part of this day.” Marine Science Day is funded, in part, by significant support from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation.

During the event, the VIMS Diversity & Inclusion Committee hosted a communal quilt activity, where participants could create their own quilt square to be added to an ongoing project led by Steve Prince, director of engagement and distinguished artist in residence at William & Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art. The William & Mary Peninsula Alumni Group also had a well-attended table.

Over 250 volunteers contributed in some way to Marine Science Day, led by Assistant Director of Outreach and Engagement Kristen Sharpe, who says, “Thank you to all who came to our campus to learn about VIMS' research and impact throughout Virginia and beyond. It is always exciting to allow members of our local and extended communities to peek behind our brick walls and explore our facilities, speak with our scientists and students and learn about the vast diversity of research topics in the Chesapeake Bay.”

“Over the course of the day, over 2,000 people were able to get a closer glimpse at the impact VIMS has on the lives of our citizens, including many school-age children and young adults who we hope will be able to better visualize themselves as ocean lovers and marine scientists, and who may help solve the problems facing our oceans and other aquatic habitats in the future!”

Marine Science Day 2024 was made possible through the generous support of our sponsors: Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, The Owens Foundation, Across Virginia Contractor Education, Canon Virginia, Gloucester Toyota, Phillips Energy, Bank of America, GO2 Delivery, Chesapeake Marine Training Institute, C.A. Barrs Contractor, Chesapeake Bank, Colonial Pipeline, Southern Trade Realty, Peninsula Heating & Air, and Phyllis Simonetta.