VIMS Scientists Win Funding for Flooding, Fishing Tech Projects

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has named the winners of a new competition for science innovation, and both projects offer high-tech approaches to help the Bay.

VIMS chose Dr. Derek Loftis and his floodwater-detection sensor, and Dr. Lisa Kellogg and her mobile fishing app, as the first-ever Dean & Director’s Innovation Fund competition winners.

A StormSense water-level sensor atop a bridge near Pinewood Road in a low-lying area of Virginia Beach. © D. Loftis/VIMS

The Fund was endowed in 2018 by the Joan and Morgan Massey Foundation through the VIMS Foundation, to further projects that “innovate, commercialize products and services, and spur job growth.”

Loftis, a VIMS assistant research scientist, pitched commercializing a water-level sensor that uses artificial intelligence to detect floodwaters in a live video stream. The sensor, called StormSense, is already in use at 36 locations in Hampton Roads. Data from the sensors feed into VIMS’ Tidewatch charts, along data from sensors operated by NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey. Tidewatch gives coastal flooding forecasts for the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia’s seaside Eastern Shore.

StormSense has already won national recognition nine times since it began in 2016.

Dr. Lisa Kellogg, a VIMS senior research scientist, pitched a fishing-related app for mobile phones, to benefit not only anglers, but also fisheries managers and scientists. Kellogg likens it to the value of birding apps used in the ornithological community.

A Working Group of four business experts chose the co-winners from six innovative ideas pitched by scientists. Anne Waleski, Executive Vice President and CFO at Markel Corporation and chairperson of the VIMS Foundation board, said this of the selections:

“Our job is to advise the VIMS leadership team on which concepts pitched by VIMS researchers should benefit as spendable funds become available,” says Waleski. “The six pitches we heard in the Fund’s inaugural round were all really innovative, and it was hard to select just two!”

-Meg Walburn Viviano