News and events

Join us October 22 for the VOSRP’s Annual Shell-Raiser’s Shindig

September 15, 2017

Libbie Mill-Midtown is the place to be for an afternoon of good friends, food and cheer.  The Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program’s (VOSRP) Annual Shell-Raiser’s Shindig will be held Sunday, October 22 from 2 - 5 p.m., and it promises to be bigger than last year’s successful event!  The VOSRP is a collaborative program of the VCU Rice Rivers Center.

The VOSRP, Slow Food RVA and Echelon Event Management will bring together top chefs in Virginia to celebrate the bounty of the Commonwealth, which will include oysters from Virginia's oyster regions and Virginia wine, beer and cider.

Tickets are limited and go quickly; $75 for an individual, $135 for a pair, all inclusive.  Children under 12 are free.  Reserve yours now.

We will be joined by Chefs:

  • Walter Bundy (Shagbark RVA)
  • Brittany Anderson (Metzger Bar and Butchery and Brenner Pass)
  • John Hoffman (Fossets Keswick Hall & Golf Club)
  • Mike Ledesma (Kabana Rooftop and Belle & James)
  • Andrew Manning and Stephen Farr (RVA Brasa) 
  • Dale Reitzer (The Bar at Acacia mid-town)
  • Joe Sparatta (Heritage and Southbound)
  • Patrick Willis (Lemaire Restaurant)

The Virginia oyster lineup includes Virginia oysters from:

  • Shooting Point Oyster Company 
  • Ruby Salts Oyster Company
  • Windmill Point Oyster Company 
  • Cedar Pointe Oyster Company
  • Big Island Aquaculture
  • Tangier Island Oyster Company

Virginia beer, wine and cider will be available from: 

  • Garden Grove Brewing Company
  • Fair Winds Brewing Company
  • The Veil Brewing Company
  • Early Mountain Vineyards
  • Williamsburg Winery

To find out how you can sponsor this event, contact

Find out more about the Shell Raiser’s Shindig.


Hope survives

September 14, 2017

By Bryan Watts, Center for Conservation Biology

Irma, the storm that began as a puff of wind off the western coast of Africa and became a monster over the warm waters of the Atlantic, left a path of devastation stretching more than 2,000 miles.  Irma was the strongest storm ever to exist in the Atlantic Ocean outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and sustained 185 mph winds for 37 hours, the longest of any storm ever recorded.  Irma hit the Leeward Islands during the peak of her strength causing loss of life and historic destruction of property.  This pattern would continue through Puerto Rico, Cuba, Florida, and the Carolinas.  Now, as Irma whimpers off to the north as a tropical depression, people are venturing out to assess the damage and to begin the process of recovery.  Our thoughts are with all of those who have been impacted.

Hope is a whimbrel that breeds in western Canada on the Mackenzie Delta and spends the winter months at Great Pond on St. Croix.  She is well-known to the public as a bird that was tracked using a satellite transmitter by The Center for Conservation Biology for more than 50,000 miles between 2009 and 2013, and to many children as the hero of the children’s book written by Cristina Kessler titled “Hope is here.”  Hope was on her winter territory when Irma hit St. Croix and many have wondered about her condition after the storm has passed.

Local ecologist Lisa Yntema visited with Hope on Great Pond on the morning of 26 August, 2017 and photographed her on the mudflats.  She had only recently arrived from her Arctic breeding grounds.  Just 11 days later on 6 September St. Croix was hit by Irma.  Many of us wonder how birds and other wildlife cope with extreme storms.  Lisa ventured out to check on Hope on the morning of 11 September and found her to be her usual “noisy self.”

Hope has taught the research community a great deal about the migratory pathways and habits of whimbrels.  She has made tremendous nonstop flights, moved great distances out over the open Atlantic, confronted storms while at sea, navigated with precision to stopover sites, and shown high fidelity to her breeding site, her wintering site, and several staging areas.  She has encountered a great deal living a life on the edge but continues to be a survivor.


Learn more about Hope the whimbrel:

Sharing the story of Hope

Whimbrel tracked into tropical storm Erika

Tracking a shorebird to the ends of the earth


The leaving ecology of whimbrel

September 13, 2017

By Bryan Watts, Center for Conservation Biology

We have spent years standing on Box Tree Dock listening for their rallying calls through the chorus of laughing gulls and clapper rails and looking south for them to rise over the horizon of marsh.  For many whimbrels, this is the last time they will touch the ground until they land on their Arctic breeding territories.  As flock after flock have passed overhead, we have logged their numbers in the hope of better understanding their “ecology of leaving” and how this event figures into their annual cycle.  The Delmarva Peninsula in Virginia represents a refueling site for whimbrels moving from winter areas in Brazil to Arctic breeding grounds.  What time of the day do most of the birds form up flocks and take off?  What is the distribution of flock sizes that leave?  What is the spring departure schedule?  These questions provide a glimpse into the many factors that have shaped their migration.  Like all ecological projects, it has been a journey of discovery.  At the close of each day we have hung onto each bit of information trying to make out the grander view.

Recently, we have compiled WhimbrelWatch data collected between 2009 and 2014 and published a paper entitled Departure patterns of Whimbrels using a terminal spring staging area in the journal Wader Study.  During the six-year period, we recorded 727 whimbrel flocks leaving the lower Delmarva that contained 39,720 birds.  Amazingly, the peak leaving date varied only three days (23 to 25 May) across six years.  During these peak leaving times, flocks were recorded every six minutes on average and the leaving rate exceeded 600 birds per hour.  Departures peaked approximately 2.5 hours before civil twilight with 82% of individuals leaving within the two-hour period between 1.5 and 3.5 hours before twilight.  Flock size ranged as high as 270 individuals and average flock size varied throughout the afternoon, with the largest flocks leaving during the onset of exodus.  The distribution of departing flock sizes approximated a negative exponential as smaller flocks were more common.  The result of this pattern is that although 50% of all flocks recorded contained less than 35 individuals, 50% of all individuals occurred in flocks that contained 80 individuals or more. 

Group travel in shorebirds is believed to provide benefits to flock members such as collective navigation and energetic savings related to flock aerodynamics.  These possible benefits for flocking have not been tested in whimbrel.  The highly synchronous and consistent departure pattern may help to facilitate synchronous arrival on the breeding grounds and reinforce mate fidelity.  Nesting season in the high Arctic is very short, placing a premium on preparations that allow birds to take advantage of breeding opportunities as they arise. 

Over the years, Box Tree Dock has become a window on whimbrel migration and a gathering place for many offering educational opportunities for school groups and a venue for birding groups and individuals.  We thank all of those observers who have contributed to the success of WhimbrelWatch.



Regina Jefferson retires from VCU

September 6, 2017

There aren’t too many people who can say they spent their entire career with one organization, but 42 years and eight months later, Regina Jefferson can make that claim.

On Thursday, August 31, Ms. Jefferson’s long tenure at VCU was celebrated as friends from all over the university and family gathered in one of the salon rooms at the University Student Commons.

Ms. Jefferson started her employment with VCU in 1974 as a clerk typist in the School of Dentistry’s Faculty Practice. After almost two years, she moved to the School of Nursing and became one of the first employees in the newly-established pediatric nurse practitioner program. Ms. Jefferson completed seven years of service in that growing unit, but decided to return to the School of Dentistry when an administrative position became available.  For 21 years, she was a familiar face to students and faculty while working with Dr. Marshall P. Brownstein, assistant dean of admissions and student affairs.

Upon Dr. Brownstein’s retirement, Ms. Jefferson moved to Life Sciences, where she has held the position of executive assistant to the vice provost since 2003. She has provided invaluable support to Dr. Thomas F. Huff, Dr. Leonard A. Smock, and Life Sciences’ current vice provost, Dr. Robert. M. Tombes.

“I am happy that I was able to be there on her day of celebration and honor her contributions to VCU and Life Sciences,” said Dr. Tombes. “She not only anchored many of our schedules and events, but her wisdom and experience served as a steady influence on all of our operations. I will miss her, but fortunately, her kids and grandkids will get more time to enjoy her infectious laugh and smile.”

Ms. Jefferson is already making plans on how to spend her well-deserved retirement, with a lot of traveling, relaxing, spending time with her grandchildren, and not setting her alarm to wake up.  

Sturgeon footage from VCU included in WUSA9 story

August 30, 2017

Scott Broom from WUSA9 (Washington, D.C.) files a story about an Atlantic Sturgeon caught in Marshyhope Creek in Federalsburg, Maryland. VCU Rice Rivers Center contributed some footage to the report. You can see our researchers at work at 1:08. 



Wandering Warblers

August 24, 2017

Our own Dr. Catherine Viverette explains about the prothonotary warbler to the readers of Virginia Living.

Read the story here

Garden Grove Brewing Company to host sustainable and invasive species dinner benefit for Rice Rivers

August 23, 2017

By Leah Small, University Relations

Most local diners haven’t feasted on fried snakehead fish or drank beer infused with spice bush leaves that have a summery, citrus taste. Food and beer aficionados will be introduced to these and other adventurous offerings during a Rice Rivers Center benefit, part of the Garden Grove Brewing Company’s monthly Taproom Dinner Series.

The event will be held Monday, Aug. 28, at the Garden Grove Brewing Company. Tickets can be purchased on Garden Grove’s website.

Garden Grove head brewer Michael Brandt and Southbound restaurant chef Craig Perkinson will offer beer, wine and food selections paired or created to capture the Rice Rivers Center’s mission to conserve and study Virginia waterways. Each offering will consist of either a native or invasive plant or animal species found in Virginia.

Read the full article here.

Rice Rivers Center recipient of first Garden Grove benefit dinner

August 21, 2017

On August 28, Garden Grove Brewing and Urban Winery will be hosting a unique dinner menu where guests will be able to dine on selections made with Virginia invasive and sustainable ingredients. Chef Craig Perkinson of Southbound will be preparing the delicacies for the multi-course meal. 

Guests will also have an opportunity to meet and enjoy a presentation from VCU Rice Rivers Center Director Dr. Greg Garman.  Dr. Garman will discuss the Rice River Center’s work restoring Virginia sturgeon populations, wetlands, Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program, and improving water quality. Deputy Director Dr. Ed Crawford and Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program Director Todd Janeski will also talk about their work at the center.

Each course will be paired with one of Garden Grove’s beers or wine.  Some of the selections from the five course dinner include:

  • Autumn Olive Saison (made with berries from the invasive Autumn Olive shrub/tree) with a whole hog dish utilizing Autumn Olive Farms Pork
  • Garden Grove’s award winning Belgian Dubbel, Minor Threat and the Funkadelic 4, with the invasive fish species Blue Catfish
  • Spice Bush Belgian Gold, paired with J.C. Walker Virginia Clams and the invasive fish species, Lionfish.  The spice bush leaves used to make the Belgian Gold were collected locally by VCU Rice Rivers Center Deputy Director Dr. Edward Crawford.

Unlike previous meals in the Taproom Dinner Series, a sixth course will be served as a thank you to those supporting the VCU Rice River Center and Garden Grove’s first Charity Dinner. That course will feature a surprise dessert paired with Garden Grove’s house made Thai inspired lemongrass ginger ale.

Reservations are required and tickets are limited, with only a few remaining. Learn more and register here.

VCU has a river campus? 10 things to know about the Rice Rivers Center

August 14, 2017

The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Rex Springston highlights 10 things about VCU Rice Rivers Center. How many of them do you know? 

Read the story here, or find it in the August edition of Discover Richmond. 

Lemaire's 'Monday Night Out for Charity' supports VOSRP

August 11, 2017

When you dine at Lemaire Restaurant Monday evenings through the month of August, you will also be supporting VCU Rice Rivers Center's Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program (VORSP).  

The VOSRP is this month's beneficiary of Lemaire's 'Monday Night Out for Charity,' where 5% of all food purchased that evening from their dinner, bar or dessert menu will be donated to the program. 

Learn more about the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program here.



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