Notes & Curiosities

An 18th-century brewery?

All signs indicate that a brew house once stood in the shadow of the Wren Building, but those inclined to toast the rediscovery of a facility that slaked thirsts at William & Mary 300 years ago should really wait until the lab results are in.

Le Mangeur de Bleuets

Over the songs of Swainson’s thrush and white-throated sparrows come the soothing calls of approaching whimbrels. Soon 24 birds in formation appear over the tree line and begin a wide circle over the blueberry field.

At TribeHacks

H. Wade Minter, the chief technology officer at a company that provides web and mobile services to five million users, stood in Swem Library, looked out upon the frantic final minutes of William & Mary’s first 24-hour hackathon and talked about the influence of the liberal arts on computer science.

Ellen Stofan
It takes a field geologist

Listening to Ellen Stofan talk to a room full of geologists is like being in on a brainstorming session for a new science fiction movie.

Be there…or be 1/r²

The hyper-rational world of science has always made a bit of room to accommodate legend and William & Mary will soon be home to a living piece of one of the most well known scientific legends: a descendant of Isaac Newton’s apple tree.

A great blue mystery

In February, the great blue herons of the Chesapeake Bay region will begin their nest building or repair chores and their mating rituals—perhaps in a tree they’ve been sharing with bald eagles.

Geology major Kat Turk ’16 and William & Mary paleontologist Rowan Lockwood
Un-beached whale

Cornwallis sank as he died, making a couple of revolutions on his way down, finally ending belly up and flippers akimbo, making a sort of “whale angel” on the ocean bottom.

Math major Robert Torrence shows off his digital “New York Times” version of the classic Lights Out puzzle.
A bigger, harder ‘Lights Out’

William & Mary math student Robert Torrence is shedding some light on a decades-old game that continues to puzzle thousands each year.


Diving in the Florida Keys at the age of 15, Erin Spencer caught a glimpse of a beautiful fish.

Tired of being a host

Early one morning in December, Jon Allen had decided that enough was enough.

The turtles in the Dell

It was probably the worst day of the summer to trap turtles. The weather was good and the season was right. But Randy Chambers’ Wetland Ecosystems class just happened to pick Sept. 4 for their turtle trapping.

students digging in a pit by Brown Hall

Mark Kostro stood in the back yard of Brown Hall, looking down at a hole in the ground. Even at a glance, the hole was different from the other features investigated by the students and professional archaeologists.

a bald eagle feeding her young in a nest within Charles City County
Comeback central for eagles

There are more bald eagles than ever nesting along the James River—and it’s likely that the population is getting close to the saturation point.

A tale of two cities

It was the best of times. Wahunsenacawh, also known as Chief Powhatan, had settled into a new capital town on a bay off what is now the York River.

Hans Christian von Baeyer
Diagnosing Schrödinger’s Cat

Hans von Baeyer says that we all can stop worrying about Schrödinger’s Cat. Science’s most famous imaginary feline may indeed be dead—or perhaps it’s alive. But it is certainly not both.

Invertebrate love

Spring is in full bloom in William & Mary’s biology labs, with more than 350 undergraduate students spawning marine invertebrates.

Physicist Joshua Erlich
Dark chocolate secrets

Many physicists believe that dark matter comprises most of the stuff of the universe, but Erlich can’t prove that dark matter even exists. Dark chocolate is another matter.

Erica Lawler holds a saw-whet owl just before release
A night out

Erica Lawler says that they look like little ice cream cones, but Lawler is in fact referencing the upside down northern saw-whet owl that she was able observe after an opportunity she took to spend a night out in the field with them.

The female incubates while her mate guards the nest.
Reality show

The nest sits nearly a hundred feet up in a lone loblolly pine in Richmond, where a pair of eagles makes their home along the fall line of Virginia’s longest river. An interesting story unfolds as the eagles star in their own reality show.

Yulin Ge inspects one of the vintage scientific texts from Swem Library’s Special Collections Research Center
Meeting Isaac Newton

It wouldn’t look out of place in a library at Hogwarts, and indeed Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica is a work of an age in which alchemy and modern science were just beginning to diverge.

Sabine's gull flies over its reflection on water
Rare bird alert

Now’s the time for birders who want to add to their life lists, says Dan Cristol, an ornithologist at William & Mary.

Lord Botetourt stays above the fray as Confederate raiders clash with Union occupiers of William & Mary’s campus during the Civil War
Life during wartime

Archaeologists working in the university's Brafferton Yard have uncovered evidence of a time a century and a half ago in which the normally placid Historic Campus was a Civil War battleground.

A couple of simple questions…

The most comprehensive survey of international relations scholars ever made started at William & Mary with two elementary questions.

Bob Vold looks for a break in the clouds from the shutter of the Thomas Herriott Observatory to view the transit of Venus
Waiting for the sun

Cheerful optimism dueled with philosophical resignation atop Small Hall as moving clouds alternately obscured and revealed the setting sun.

ARES will parachute down to above the surface of Mars
Airplane over the Red Planet

William & Mary might become the base for a mission to Mars. The mission is called ARES—the Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Surveyor. Joel Levine explains that the idea is to send an airplane to Mars.

Architectural rendering of Phase 3 of William & Mary's Integrated Science Center
Phase 3

Members of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds of William & Mary’s Board of Visitors were treated to an advance look at the Machine for Science and other features of Phase 3 of the College’s Integrated Science Center.

Lasers and candy and bosons, oh my!

Joshua Erlich was not teaching a cooking class when he talked about fat content, taste and mouth feel to an audience of several dozen members of the Williamsburg community one bright Saturday morning.

Science, in 3 to 5 minutes

There are the arts, and then there are the sciences. There is literature, language and film, and then there is calculus, physics and experiments.

Rocking the geologists

The William & Mary Department of Geology has acquired a world-class mineral collection that geologists say will be a valuable resource in the department for many years.

The Yankee Well ...

The mist turns into a legitimate drizzle as Joe Jones stands over a hole in the ground on the Historic Campus of William & Mary. He has just removed a large plywood cover sheltering a pit approximately two feet in depth.

Geology at the half-century mark

William & Mary’s Department of Geology is celebrating its 50th birthday—not even a tick of the clock in terms of the age of the earth.

Teaching through research

"We’ve determined as a faculty that our undergraduate students should comprehend the tools of research as an essential part of their future problem-solving and decision-making,” says Joel Schwartz, director of the Charles Center and dean of honors and interdisciplinary studies.

Kirk Havens of VIMS appointed vice chair of Chesapeake panel

The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) has appointed Kirk Havens of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, to serve as the committee’s vice chair and chair-elect.

No longer too small

Small Hall is no longer too small. “We were just bursting at the seams in terms of space,” said David Armstrong, Chancellor Professor of Physics and department chair.

The chicks go wild

Virginia’s breeding population of red-cockaded woodpeckers reached a new high this year, with nine breeding pairs documented in late May.

A better & bigger Small Hall

“The building itself is always part of a physics experiment” says Keith Griffioen, professor and chair of the physics department. And in recent years, he added, Small Hall often was an unwanted part.

Bumper crop of bald eagles

The bald eagle breeding population along the James River has set a new record, with 165 breeding pairs of the birds documented in early March.

Whipping the SciClone

Combining the power of 159 computers and 475 individual processors, SciClone, William & Mary’s scientific computing complex, is an important resource for the College and a unique feature for a campus this size.

Early starter

When Mohima Sanyal '14 would drop a transgenic mouse into the lab’s Y-shaped maze, she had a pretty good idea of how the mouse would react.

Dreyfus Scholar

William & Mary’s Elizabeth Harbron is one of six U.S. chemists to be named Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars.

International honors

Two William & Mary scientists working in the laboratory of R. A. Lukaszew recently were recognized at the 57th International Symposium of the American Vacuum Society.

‘Genius Award'

Shannon Lee Dawdy is among 2010 class of MacArthur Fellows

Got it on eBay…

…and our transmission electron microscope is running just fine, thanks

Hawk in the house!

The saga of William & Mary's family of Cooper's hawks continues.

Back to the farm

Diners in Williamsburg-area eateries late this summer may be tasting the results of a William & Mary sustainable agriculture internship.

Leaving the Nest

One of the Sunken Garden's Cooper's hawks is out of the nest.

Bumper crop of Fulbrights

Thirteen students and alumni from the College of William and Mary have been selected to receive 2010-11 scholarships from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, setting a new record for the College.

The Starving Time

A VIMS study of 400-year-old oyster shells from the Jamestown settlement confirms that a harsh drought plagued the early years of the colony and made the James River much saltier than today.

Ghost(pot) busters!

Out-of-work commercial watermen pulled up more than 9,000 derelict so-called "ghost pots" from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries this winter.

A double mystery

Rusty blackbirds are threatened across their range--except on the William & Mary campus.

Helping start-ups

The James City County Business and Technology Incubator - a partnership between James City County (JCC) and the College of William & Mary - welcomed a new client this month, Breathe Healthy.

Ruling the runway

Ecofashionista Regina Root to preside over Ixel Moda.

Work on display

Research informs New York African Burial Ground's visitor center.

Off the map

GIS data-stitching opens new research horizons.

Full Circle

Hope, a whimbrel fitted with a transmitter last year, has returned to the Eastern Shore. She's the first whimbrel the Center for Conservation Biology has tracked on the migratory "full circle."

Starnes & co-workers win national awards

A national group of plastics engineers has recognized the work of a research group at William and Mary led by William Starnes, a national leader in the chemistry of vinyls.

Never trust a whimbrel

These shifty, stilt-legged shorebirds continue to surprise even seasoned scientists.

In praise of post-docs

William & Mary's interdisciplinary environmental program is expanding, thanks to a new post-doctoral fellowship program.

Andy Allen is first recipient of Sullivan Scholarship

Andy Allen '11 is preparing to relish everything the old world has to offer. As the first recipient of the Timothy J. Sullivan Scholarship, he will spend the fall semester of his junior year at the University of Nottingham in England.

Sustainability interns find big savings quickly

As interns for the Committee on Sustainability (COS), Tyler Koontz '09 and Judi Sclafani '11 spent their summer months researching William & Mary’s recycling and waste services. Thanks to that work—and a recommendation by the students-the College will now save $40,000 annually.

Dig this: WMCAR is 20

William & Mary's Center for Archaeological Research celebrates 20 years of work, opens a new lab and produces an index of projects.

Google Earth now displays marine 'dead zones'

The newest version of Google Earth contains data on marine "dead zones" contributed by Professor Robert Diaz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.

2 alumni win Darwin-Wallace Medals

The Linnean Society of London has awarded Darwin-Wallace medals every half-century since 1908. The most recent class includes H. Allen Orr ’82, ’85 and Mohamed Noor ’92.

VIMS dedicates Andrews Hall, Seawater Research Lab

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science dedicated two new research buildings-Andrews Hall and the Seawater Research Laboratory-in an April 16 ceremony that highlighted the many contributions made to VIMS and the College of William and Mary by the late Senator Hunter B. Andrews and his wife Cynthia.

Integrating Sciences

ISC 1 is open and producing science. ISC 2 is under construction. Just wait until we build ISC 3.

Preston is Fulbright Distinguished Chair

Katherine K. Preston will spend the spring 2009 semester at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, after being named the Walt Whitman Distinguished Chair of American Culture by the Fulbright Center of the Netherlands.

Beginnings: From the fryer into the van

In a corner of the Keck Environmental Field Laboratory sit an old water heater, a plastic holding tank and a few pumps, set up in a purple-painted particleboard frame with the air of an eighth grade science project.

Musick honored for lifetime opus

Jack Musick of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science has been awarded the Commonwealth's Lifetime Achievement in Science award for his work on the ecology and conservation of marine fishes and sea turtles.

Where the Villages Have No Name

"Kenya literally felt like The Lion King every day, with a big sunrise behind the acacia tree and lions and elephants everywhere," said Patel.

Plumeri starts faculty support fund

Joseph J. Plumeri, a member of William and Mary Board of Visitors, has committed $2 million to establish the Plumeri Awards for Faculty Excellence.

A birdhouse for the Chancellor

It's probably the world's only birdhouse with the scales of justice on one side and the William and Mary cipher on the other.

We call them GIGs

They're Global Inquiry Groups: Interdisciplinary, international...and they incorporate research.

Art and artifact

The surprising depth of controversy about a new museum in Paris--plus joy, the Supreme Court and a rain-forest philosopher.