Archive for October, 2015

You, Me, and Sustainability

~By Rachel Wimmer (reposted from the William & Mary Blogs)

It seems like just yesterday that I was in 2nd grade at Arlington Science Focus School singing songs like “Swing With Me on the Scientific Method,” “Plant a Tree for Your Tomorrow,” and “The -Ology Song” with my classmates. As dorky as these sound, I have to admit that nearly 15 years later I still remember all the words to these songs and have even hummed them to myself while sitting in chemistry to remind myself of the phases of matter. It was these experiences in elementary school that sparked my interest in both science and theatre, interests that I thought were two unrelated and distinct aspects of my life.


Fast forward 13 years to my sophomore year in college when people started asking me what I was going to do with my life and I would forcibly smile through gritted teeth and say that I had no idea. That is until I stumbled upon an internship with the Marine Mammal Commission where I discovered the field of science communications and how it perfectly married my love of marine science and storytelling. That summer, I created my own blog that aimed to communicate marine science in a way that anyone could understand so that everyone could have access to the wonders of the ocean, even those who may have never been anywhere near a beach. For the Mammal Commission (@MarineMammalCom), and later through internships at the Smithsonian (@SImarineGEO), I worked on education and social media related projects that aimed to communicate the incredible work that scientists were doing to the public who, in all honesty, has a very short attention span. I loved being able to find ways to share my excitement about science with others, particularly information that is critical for understanding how our interactions with the environment affect every aspect of life on this planet.

Here on campus, I am a biology major, a marine science minor, and work in a research lab at VIMS. All areas in which I am constantly exposed to the groundbreaking research that is changing the way in which scientists look at the environment, but which is failing to be communicated with the general public. Last semester, I had the opportunity to escape to New Zealand where I got to see not only how many Pacific Island cultures are highly dependent on a healthy and functioning environment, but saw how the the country of New Zealand as a whole was largely committed to protecting their natural resources and preserving the absolutely breathtaking vistas and environments that they are well known for (check out my travel blog). One of the most remarkable moments that I had while I was abroad was seeing how every aspect of sustainability was embodied by many Pacific Island communities, including Samoa. In my Samoan society and culture class, my Samoan classmates and professor shared with me the struggles that their culture as a whole must endure as a result of industrialization, climate change, sea level rise, and overfishing. The Samoan culture has strong historical ties to the environment and traditional ideas of sustainability. However, these connections are slowly degrading as the natural resources that they are dependent on slowly disappear. I was shocked and disturbed that Samoa was being affected biologically, economically, and culturally from changes in the environment – three of the major cornerstones of sustainable development.


So that brings us up to today, my senior year at W&M and the year in which I have the exciting opportunity to share stories of sustainability research and projects occurring on the W&M and VIMS campuses as an EcoAmbassador. Myself and six other EcoAmbassadors have been selected to spread the word of sustainability on campus and to get people excited about bringing a bit more green to the “green and gold” of our dear alma mater. The projects this year range from exploring green careers to creating green spaces on campus to surveys on cigarette litter. I will also be highlighting W&M and VIMS researchers who are investigating issues like sea turtle strandings, seagrass bed restoration, and doctor prescribed outdoors time.

My job is all about sharing these stories with you, tapping

into my love of science communications to get you as excited about sustainability as I am. The work on sustainability that is being done on the VIMS and William & Mary campuses is inspiring and is paving the way for the university to become an environmentally conscious institution. Stay tuned to see what “sustainability” really is, where it is happening on campus, and how you can be a part of the generation that is changing the way we interact with planet earth.

October 16th, 2015

Fostering a Biking Culture

One of many Bike Alliance group rides!

One of many Bike Alliance group rides!

~by Sophia Palia, Class of 2018, Bike Alliance Event Planner and Secretary

Before college, I never really used to bike that much. It was only the day before I left for the seven-hour road trip from New Jersey down to Williamsburg did I decide that I was going to even bring my bike. And I couldn’t be more thankful that I did. That one decision has created opportunities that have helped make my experience at William & Mary so great and meaningful.

As a freshman last Fall, I saw the advertisement for the first Bike Alliance group ride to Yogurtini and thought to myself, “Hey, fro yo, I should go yo!” It was supposed to be a short ride, only about 5 miles. We met at the Ukrop parking deck and I was the only student who showed up. But along with Rich Thompson, staff and co-founder of the Bike Alliance, and Gabriel Morey, current president of the Bike Alliance, we biked over 25 miles. We explored the area, riding on the Colonial Parkway, the Virginia Capital Trail, passing gorgeous greenery, and having a blast.

As a nascent student organization, the Bike Alliance started out a little bumpy. But through working hard and learning from past events, we have gained incredible support and momentum. Our group rides this semester have had record-breaking turnouts and we have many more exciting new events and ideas for the future.

So, what exactly is the Bicycle Alliance? We are a group of students, staff, administrators, and faculty that promote a bicycle-friendly William and Mary through infrastructure and education.

In only two years, we have definitely made a visible impact on the bicycling culture at W&M and in the larger Williamsburg community. We host monthly casual group bike rides which are a phenomenal way to introduce people to places that are right in our backyard and accessible by bike. This past September, we led a ride to Newtown and Monticello Marketplace so students could see how to bike to these places.  In addition to these larger rides, we run weekly Wednesday night group rides at 5:15PM, meeting at the Sadler Terrace. These rides range in pace and distance depending on the group that shows up. Last year, we hosted women’s rights’ and cycling advocate Kathryn Bertine for a screening of her documentary Half the Road about the injustices and inequality in women’s cycling.

On the infrastructure side of our mission, we’ve installed fix-it stations around campus that provide students the necessary tools to pump up their tires and fix their bikes. We’ve been upgrading the college with new bike racks, bike lanes, and shared-road signs. We also established a 1-credit educational course through the kinesiology department, KINES 196 Bicycling Basics, to teach bike maintenance, safety, and just have fun biking. We also have worked a great deal with the city to foster the biking culture on campus and in Williamsburg as a whole, for example by helping local businesses install bike racks through the City’s bike rack grant.

All these efforts have contributed to promoting this important bicycling culture on campus and in the community. I had never really realized before how much of an impact biking can have on a community. Whether it is striping a bike lane or adding a fix-it station, it can help produce changes in habit that help our environment, health and well-being, sense of community, and even economic development. The Bike Alliance has impacted many people on campus already, from myself and the other members, to the students who use the bike lanes and fix-it stations. With so much done in the first two years it has existed, I am excited to see what will happen in the next two.


Check out the Bike Alliance’s Facebook page for information and updates!

October 13th, 2015

Navigating Williamsburg with WATA Bus and Trolley: Your Guide to Local Public Transit

~By Katie Johanson, Class of 2015

lorax 1

The Lorax riding the William & Mary Green Line and the Williamsburg Trolley during Try Transit Week (September 21-25).

Taking public transit instead of driving a car is one of the most effective ways that people can reduce their energy use and carbon footprint while saving time and money. Among its many benefits, public transportation reduces the miles traveled in private vehicles, eases the congestion of vehicles in an area, and enables communities to plan for and to support alternative modes of transportation. In addition, public transit offers people an opportunity to save money on car-related expenses and to gain time, which would have otherwise been spent driving, to read, listen to music, or work. This guide will introduce you to public transit in the Williamsburg area and provide helpful hints to make your experience the best that it can be.

WATA: Your Local Public Transit Provider

bus trolley

The Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA) provides safe, efficient, and accessible transportation throughout the City of Williamsburg, James City County, and the Bruton District of York County. Thanks to an ongoing contract between the College of William & Mary and WATA, all William & Mary students, faculty, and staff may ride any WATA bus or the Trolley for FREE by showing the Transit Operator their William & Mary ID as they board. Non-affiliated riders may use exact change to pay $1.25 for a one-way pass or $2.00 for an all-day pass as they board the bus or visit the Williamsburg Transportation Center to purchase a multi-day pass. All WATA buses and the Trolley are fully accessible for disabled riders and are equipped with foldable bike racks that hold up to two bikes for multi-modal trips. With minimal preparation and practice, you can make WATA bus or Trolley your transportation option of choice to reach shopping, dining, entertainment, and employment destinations in the area.

Get to Know the Routes

WATA operates nine fixed routes and two specialty routes (the William & Mary Green Line and the Surry Line) using a “hub and spokes” system based at the Williamsburg Transportation Center (a.k.a. Amtrak Train Station) on North Boundary Street, less than one mile from the main William & Mary campus. The campus is directly served by the Red Line, Blue Line, Williamsburg Trolley, and Green Line, while you may transfer to other routes via the Williamsburg Transportation Center.

bus 1 bus 3

Use BusTime®, WATA’s Real-Time Bus Tracker

Using public transit in Williamsburg has never been easier or more hassle-free. Thanks to the BusTime real-time bus tracker
recently launched by WATA, riders no longer have to read a brochure to figure out when a bus or the Trolley will reach their stop. If you have access to a smart phone or computer, open BusTime by typing into the browser or by
clicking on the Transit tab of the William & Mary application. Then, simply choose your desired route, direction, and stop from the menu and the site will show you the estimated arrival times for all of the buses servicing the stop within the next hour. Even with GPS tracking onboard the vehicles, WATA suggests that riders arrive 5 minutes prior to the time reported, because buses may be moving faster or slower than estimated.

Helpful Hints and Safety Tips

  • Pay attention to the hours of operation. WATA buses and the Trolley operate during different hours depending on the day of the week.
  • While waiting for the bus, stand next to the WATA sign so it is clear to the Operator that you want to board the bus. Operators only stop the bus when a passenger is visible at the stop.
  • Have your William & Mary ID, bus pass, or cash in your hand and ready to use while waiting for the bus to arrive.
  • When disembarking, do not walk in front of the bus. Wait until the bus pulls away so that you can look both ways to safely cross the street.
  • If elderly or disabled people board the bus, please offer them your seat if you are near the front.
  • Once your stop appears on the lighted display at the front of the bus, pull down on the overhead cord to request the stop. Please be aware that Operators do not stop at every stop unless requested. If you are riding the Trolley, simply notify the Operator of your designated stop.
  • If you have loaded a bike onto the bus, remind the Operator as you exit that you need to remove your bike.
  • Consider bringing a jacket or sweater onto the bus, as the temperature is variable.
  • Eating and drinking are not allowed on the bus. Please do not bring aromatic food or open beverages onto the bus.
  • Please be mindful of other passengers when listening to music, using headphones during your ride.
  • When in doubt, ask a Transit Operator or contact WATA’s customer service desk. WATA’s friendly and knowledgeable Operators can help you get where you want to go safely and efficiently.
  • Follow WATA on Facebook and Twitter for news, service alerts, and more!

Contact Us with Comments, Questions, or Concerns

General Information about WATA’s Services: (757) 220-5493,, 

Bill Horatio III, Director, College of William & Mary Parking & Transportation Services: (757) 221-2434 or

Katie Johanson, Communications Specialist, Williamsburg Area Transit Authority:

Katie Johanson, Communications Specialist at WATA, providing information to parents and students during First Year Experience

Katie Johanson, Communications Specialist at WATA, providing information to parents and students during First Year Experience

Bill Horatio III, Director of William & Mary Parking and Transportation Services, posing with the Lorax during Try Transit Week

Bill Horatio III, Director of William & Mary Parking and Transportation Services, posing with the Lorax during Try Transit Week

October 6th, 2015


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