2013 After Hours Lectures

Ocean Plastics: Big and small

(October 24, 2013) Images of floating bottles and other plastic trash from the Pacific's "Great Garbage Patch" have long dismayed ocean lovers around the world. Dr. Kirk Havens of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science explores the source and fate of these ocean plastics, both the large items that catch public attention and the floating soup of "microplastics" that may actually pose a greater threat to ocean and human health. Havens directs the Marine Debris program at VIMS and is working with colleagues to develop and test a biodegradable replacement for one of the two main sources of microplastic--the "microbeads" found in scores of household products. View archived video online.

Illustrious Fishes

(September 26, 2013) Noted marine-science illustrator Val Kells describes her craft--and explores the continuing value of drawings and paintings in a world that's awash in high-resolution photographs from digital cameras. Kells has worked for more than 25 years with scientists, curators, designers, and writers to create aesthetic, accurate, and detailed illustrations for exhibits in public aquariums, museums, and nature centers. Her work has also been extensively published in books and periodicals. Most recently, she created 227 full-color fish illustrations for the Field Guide to Fishes of the Chesapeake Bay. View archived video online.

Coastal insurance: The cause and effects of rising rates

(August 29, 2013) Norfolk-based Wetlands Watch spent the last year on a street-level study of private homeowner's insurance, focusing on how increasing rates and changes in coverage might affect shoreline communities. Co-author Skip Stiles explores the study's often surprising findings about the links between private insurance, climate change, and rising sea level, and discusses how changes coming to the National Flood Insurance Program will further impact the cost and patterns of coastal living. View archived video online.

Oyster Aquaculture

(July 25, 2013) The practice of raising oysters—whether for profit, recreation or restoration—is growing by leaps and bounds in Virginia's portion of Chesapeake Bay. VIMS shellfish aquaculture agent Karen Hudson describes oyster growing from hatchery to market and discusses some of the issues surrounding the practice. View archived video online.

The Costs and Benefits of "Fracking"

(June 27, 2013) "Fracking," the use of high-pressure fluids to release natural gas from deep underground, has transformed America's energy future. Mr. Dan Soeder of the U.S. Department of Energy describes the hydraulic fracturing process, the energy resources it makes available, and the potential environmental impacts of shale-gas extraction and use. His presentation focuses on hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where more than 12,000 wells have been permitted or drilled since 2008, but also touches on the potential for shale-gas development in the Taylorsville Basin of Virginia's coastal plain. View archived video online | USGS Fact Sheet

Osprey in Chesapeake Bay: Ecological Shifts in a Changing Estuary

(April 18, 2013) Ospreys—the only birds of prey that subsist almost exclusively on a diet of live fish—are one of the most visible symbols of Chesapeake Bay, and one of the best indicators of estuary health. Dr. Bryan Watts, Director of the Center for Conservation Biology, explores the recovery and ecology of this magnificent species. The talk includes information about the Center's Project Osprey Watch and osprey-banding research. View archived video online.

Menhaden: The most important fish in the sea?

(March 28, 2013) The Virginia General Assembly recently voted to reduce the commercial catch of Atlantic menhaden in Virginia waters by 20%, bringing Virginia in line with other states along the Eastern seaboard in a coast-wide management plan adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) in December. VIMS Associate Professor Rob Latour explores the issues surrounding Atlantic menhaden, their commercial harvest, and the recreational fisheries that target menhaden predators such as striped bass. View archived video online.

Uranium mining  in Virginia: a radioactive question

(February 28, 2013) The 2013 session of Virginia's General Assembly is likely to consider a bill that would lift the Commonwealth's 30-year ban on uranium mining. Dr. Jim Kaste of the Geology Department at William & Mary describes the origins of the $7 billion deposit that lies at the heart of the debate, explains the uranium mining process, and weighs the environmental issues involved in exploiting and using uranium, fossil fuels, and renewable sources of energy. View archived video online.

Recurrent coastal flooding: How should VA respond?

(January 31, 2013) In 2011, Virginia's General Assembly issued a joint resolution calling for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to investigate how the Commonwealth can best respond to "recurrent coastal flooding." VIMS researcher Molly Mitchell—the report's lead author—highlights the study's findings, including a review of potential adaptation strategies from around the world, and specific recommendations for the options that would most effectively protect communities, roadways, and military installations in Tidewater Virginia and along the Eastern Shore. View archived video online | Report Summary (pdf) | Full Report