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Museum’s first international Eco Tour to Costa Rica a success

Second trip planned for December

April 12, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum launched its first Eco Tour earlier this year, which included exploring several land and marine environments within Costa Rica.

The 12 participants were guided by malacologist Dr. Jos H. Leal, the museum's curator, who was aided by Outreach Coordinator Leigh Gay and local guide Erick Guzman, of Holbrook Travel.

Among the stops were the Marino Ballena National Park in the Uvita area and Cao Island on the southwestern-most part of the Pacific coast. The tour included a variety of experiences from learning about new mollusks and visiting hanging bridges, to swimming in warm waters.

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The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum launched its first Eco Tour earlier this year. It is planning a return trip to Costa Rica in December.

"Our first international Eco Tour took us on an immersive natural history-experience in one of the most remarkable tropical regions of the world," Leal said. "In addition to seeing a wide array of wildlife in some of the more traditional terrestrial environments, such as the Monteverde cloud forest, we also explored some of the Pacific coast in the southern part of the country and spent a day snorkeling at offshore Cao Island. We had a chance to see many local mollusks and have discussions and show-and-tell on the go.

"It's great to see the National Shell Museum expanding its educational experiences to include the rich marine ecosystems of the eastern Pacific Ocean," he added.

The Museum is planning a return trip to Costa Rica in December.

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"In the upcoming trip, we will be spending a couple of days in the area of the Arenal Volcano, with the remainder of the adventure dedicated to exploring the central and southern Pacific coasts of Costa Rica," Leal said. "One of the super interesting angles I like to approach when discussing the tropical eastern Pacific mollusks and their shells is their relationship to well-known Southwest Florida and Caribbean counterparts.

"There are many 'species-pairs' - one member of the pair from the Pacific, another from the Atlantic. These 'pairs' originated from common ancestors that thrived prior to rising of the Isthmus of Panama," he added. "The many opportunities for exploration and ensuing science-oriented discussions make the museum trips truly unique."

Gay, who finalized the trip's itinerary, said participants can expect more learnings along the shore.

"Our first trip to Costa Rica was an eye-opening experience. From day one until the last night, we were immersed in culture and nature," she said. "We covered it all: shelling, snorkeling, whale-watching, birdwatching, hiking and eating. Our hotels had breathtaking views of volcanoes, rainforests, and the vast Pacific Ocean."

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