About the Virginia Institute of Marine Science

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science is an oceanographic research school in the College of William and Mary, which is based on the Gloucester, Virginia, campus, but also operates at other locations. It currently has over fifty faculty members and around one hundred students at the masters and doctoral level, studying the physical and life sciences as they relate to the marine environment. It is one of America’s oldest and most prestigious oceanographic research institutions. Currently, roughly half of its funding is provided by the state, and the other half through grants from a variety of sources, including the federal government.

– Areas of Research –

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science is at the cutting edge of many fields of oceanographic research all over the wold, including in Antarctica. Current major areas of research include blue crabs, oysters, aquatic vegetation, sea life health and disease, sustainable marine management and fisheries, climate change, pollution, oceanic dead zones, and computer and statistical modelling.

On its main campus in Gloucester, the school maintains the largest saltwater research facility in the country, as well as the Hargis Library (a specialized marine science research library), more than 100,000 fish specimens drawn from Chesapeake Bay, and a variety of other research laboratories. It also operates two other major campuses, the Eastern Shore Laboratory field station in Wachapreague, which specializes in shellfish research, and the Kauffman Aquaculture Center, somewhat north of the main campus, which specializes in aquaculture research. The school also owns its own fleet of ships for ocean research, and is particularly heavily involved in research in the Chesapeake Bay.

– Studying at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science –

Overall, approximately 500 students, staff, and faculty currently work at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Students can study in one of four departments (Biological Sciences, Fisheries Science, Physical Sciences, and Environmental and Aquatic Animal Health), and then study under nearly sixty faculty members. Currently the dean of the school is John T. Wells, and the dean of graduate studies is Iris C. Anderson. A full list of faculty is available here.

Competition to get into the school is fierce. Every year about 30 applicants are accepted out of a pool of applicants several times that size. Applications must be submitted by mid-January to be considered. Successful applicants normally receive funding from several sources.

Summer and internship programs are available at the Institute for interested high school and undergraduate (college) students. In addition, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science partners with Hampton University to make research experiences available to Hampton students under the Diversity in Research in Environmental and Marine Science (DREAMS) initiative.

– History –

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science was founded in 1938 by Donald Davis as a research laboratory, and then granted a state charter by the Commonwealth of Virginia two years later, in 1940. In its early years, its groundbreaking research included inquiries into oysters (until then little-understood by science), the Chesapeake Bay fish and crab populations, and seagrass restoration. The current name was given in a reorganization in 1962.

Since 1973, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science has conducted a survey of shark populations, which is now the longest continually operating shark survey.

– Sources and Further Reading –

Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “Virginia Institute of Marine Science – Home.” (official website).