Fish Collection

The VIMS Nunnally Ichthyology Collection serves a broad community of basic and applied research scientists and fisheries managers, and it provides an important resource for local community outreach. Through its history, the VIMS collection has grown from an uncatalogued teaching collection to become one of the largest repositories for freshwater, Chesapeake Bay, and coastal fishes in Virginia. The VIMS collection currently maintains over 35,000 catalogued lots of fishes (c. 350,000 total specimens) and includes specimens from 316 families and more than 1,000 genera. 

The VIMS collection also houses a number of specimens of significant general scientific interest, including two specimens of the Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae), a whole-body specimen of a juvenile Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias), and unique distributional records (e.g., an Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola, from the Chesapeake Bay). Four “themes” can be noted as unique strengths of the collection:

  • Fishes of Chesapeake Bay and the Coast of Virginia
  • Deep-sea Fishes of the Western North Atlantic
  • Freshwater Fishes of Virginia
  • Larval Fishes 

In addition to being a resource for outside professional researchers and students, the Nunnally Ichthyology Collection supports research conducted by VIMS graduate students. Recent graduate-student studies based on specimens in the collection include morphological, systematic, and taxonomic studies of Butterfly Rays (Gymnura spp.), Pricklebacks (Stichaeidae), and Drums (Sciaenidae). Specimens are also used by students in the context of coursework. The collection also provides opportunities for William & Mary undergraduate students to engage in original specimen-based research. Recent undergraduate research projects using specimens from the collection include identification of juvenile Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma) from Chesapeake Bay tributaries, and an osteological and systematic study of the Gunnels (Pholidae).

More than 1,000 people tour the VIMS Nunnally Ichthyology Collection each year. These public tours and programs include the annual Marine Science Day at VIMS and behind-the-scenes collection tours. In addition to tours and visitors that come directly to the VIMS Nunnally Ichthyology Collection, the specimens in the collection are loaned for use in public talks, seminars, and other outreach programs.


The Nunnally Ichthyology Collection at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the College of William & Mary preserves a library of fishes from Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay, the North Atlantic, and the world beyond. The collection supports VIMS’ mission of research, education, and advisory service by engaging a broad community of basic and applied research scientists worldwide, providing the foundation for graduate education and research, and inspiring the public by sharing the biodiversity of fishes and the research that is being done to gain a better understanding of the natural world. The collection also serves the Commonwealth of Virginia as a repository for voucher specimens collected by state agencies and as a record of the fishes of Virginia.