VIMS begins 75th anniversary celebration

Inaugural lecture on January 22 looks at history and status of Chesapeake Bay

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science begins a yearlong celebration of its 75th anniversary this month, with the launch of a special multimedia website and the first of its monthly series of anniversary-themed public lectures for 2015.

VIMS began in 1940 as the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory in Yorktown.VIMS began in 1940 as the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory in Yorktown. The brainchild of William & Mary biology professor Donald W. Davis, the institution moved across the York River to Gloucester Point in 1950 to make way for the Coleman Bridge, and took on its current name by an act of the General Assembly in 1962.

“VIMS has a rich history, a compelling vision, and a bright future,” says Dean and Director John Wells. “I invite everyone to partake in the exciting slate of special events and web-based products that we’ve created to mark our 75th anniversary.”

A full listing of anniversary events is available via the regular VIMS website at, as well as from the special anniversary “microsite” at The microsite celebrates VIMS’ 75th anniversary with videos, an interactive timeline, albums of historical photos and documents, and other multimedia elements. It even allows well-wishers to post their own “Happy Birthday” video for display on VIMS’ YouTube channel, Facebook page, and other social-media platforms.

Most of VIMS’ anniversary events will build off existing outreach programs such as the monthly After Hours lecture series, summer public tours, Speaker’s Bureau, festival attendance, and annual Marine Science Day open house. VIMS also plans to emplace a time capsule, hold a fund-raising gala, and host a fall homecoming for current and former faculty, staff, and students, among other events. Details and registration for anniversary events are available via the VIMS website.

The first anniversary-themed After Hours lecture begins at 7 pm on January 22 in Watermen’s Hall on the VIMS campus in Gloucester Point, when VIMS professor Carl Hershner will take a look at Chesapeake Bay past, present, and future. Hershner, an internationally known expert on coastal issues, will explore the factors that have precipitated the long decline in Bay health, the status of current restoration efforts, and the challenges that face the Bay and its marine life in the coming decades.

VIMS' 75th Anniversary Seal.Topics of other After Hours lectures include blue crabs, oysters, Native use of Chesapeake Bay, and impacts of climate change in Antarctica. External speakers will examine the continuing impacts of the Gulf Oil Spill, reveal the secrets used to capture the first video of the giant squid Architeuthis, and explore the possibility of discovering life on Jupiter’s ice-crusted moon Europa.

Wells says the anniversary events will be linked by a theme of  “Then, Now, and Next,” with presenters and activities exploring how marine ecosystems and marine science have changed during the last 75 years and are likely to change in the future.

The ultimate goal of the anniversary celebration, he says, “is to showcase the accomplishments in research, education, and advisory service that VIMS faculty, staff, students, and alumni have made during the last 75 years and will continue to make in the future. Our success as an institution is a tribute not only to the people who work and study here, but to those who came before us and on whose shoulders we stand.”

VIMS will highlight its successes and challenges in a full-color commemorative booklet that uses historical photos and interviews with former and current faculty, staff, and students to describe the past, present, and future of the Institute. The booklet, which will be on sale in the VIMS Gift Shop, includes a timeline that relates the history of VIMS to that of the Bay and its watershed, and to broader scientific and environmental milestones.

VIMS' 75th Anniversary logo.