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Fishy stuff: Marine Science Day at VIMS

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science's annual Marine Science Day open house on May 22nd drew another record crowd to Gloucester Point.

Susan Maples, VIMS' Public Outreach Coordinator, estimates that more than 2,200 people enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at how VIMS research in Chesapeake Bay and around the world helps protect and restore marine ecosystems. Attendees came from throughout tidewater Virginia and from as far away as Ohio and California.

Now in its eighth year, the event gave visitors a chance to learn how VIMS scientists help manage blue crabs, restore oysters, survey fish populations, unravel biodiversity, monitor water quality, find and remove "ghost" crab pots, and reduce the accidental capture of diamondback terrapins. Other activities introduced VIMS' international work in Antarctica and the deep sea.

This year's event, which was themed around sand, provided guests with special opportunities to learn about marine geology and how scientists use sonar and other high-tech tools to reveal the important role that sediments play in Bay and coastal ocean ecosystems.

A "Messages in the Sand" booth allowed visitors to record a sonar image of a hand-drawn secret message, while visitors to the "Scientist for a Second" photo booth were able to picture themselves aboard a storm-tossed research vessel. These images are now available on the VIMS website at www.vims.edu/virtual_scientist.

The younger set had fun learning with sand-based crafts and other activities in the Children's Pavilion. Kids and parents also got a chance to collect and observe organisms from the York River, and tour the Institute's Teaching Marsh, Shellfish Hatchery, and Maritime Forest.

In an entry on the VIMS Facebook page, Fiona Bessey-Bushnell of Richmond noted that Marine Science Day "was very exciting, informative and well organized." She "particularly appreciated how there was ‘something for everybody' and that activities were interactive and tailored to a wide age group." She writes her two year old "is now a huge turtle fan!"

During the annual Parade of Marine Life, children and adults from around Tidewater walked through campus wearing handmade creature costumes including jellyfish, sharks, dolphins, and blue crabs. This year's parade featured papier-mâché masks made over spring break by students enrolled in VIMS' Create-a-Critter Camp.

Winners of this year's Parade costume awards will be announced next week.

VIMS, one of the largest marine centers in the U.S., provides research, education, and advisory service to help protect and restore Chesapeake Bay and coastal waters. The Institute offers Master's and Ph.D. degrees through its School of Marine Science, part of the College of William and Mary.