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Shellabrate National Seashell Day at Shell Museum

By Staff | Jun 8, 2016

Paul Gulbrandsen, development associate at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. PHOTO PROVIDED

Award winning Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is the only museum dedicated solely to shells and the mollusk that make them.

“Mollusks are the animals that inhabit the shells that we are celebrating,” said Paul Gulbrandsen, development associate at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. “They are the second most diverse species on our planet.”

At the Shell Museum individuals learn that they are such an important part of the world, by offering not only shells, but an abundance of food sources to all levels of wildlife including humans.

“They are found in the deepest part of the ocean and the highest mountains,” said Gulbrandsen. “They are survivors, and you will find them living in terrestrial, water, and land habitats.”

To honor Southwest Florida’s favorite pastime, the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau has announced the Inaugural National Seashell Day to be held on June 20.

“We are ready to celebrate National Seashell Day and will have our popular shell crafting and tank talks going on all day,” said Gulbrandsen. “We will be giving away a museum shell bag one per family (as supplies last).”

The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau has also been instrumental in getting the word out for the event by directing bloggers and social media from all over the world to visit the museum and Southwest Florida islands.

“This inaugural day is important to the museum because it highlights what we are all about – it celebrating the mollusks,” said Gulbrandsen. “There are two reasons most people are living on Sanibel, or visiting us, they go to the beach and shelling – that’s what the museum does. We are becoming a go to destination.”

Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is a natural history museum with exhibits, rare insights, cultural, historical and everything an individual ever wanted to know about shells.

Mollusks, just what do you know about them? Gulbrandsen likes to ask the thought provoking question to everyone, “Where does a mollusk come from?”

They come from an egg sac and only 5-10 percent of them survive. Residents on Sanibel are fortunate for their natural beaches, so mollusks egg sacs are a common occurrence for them to identify, but the general public usually doesn’t know the answer of how mollusks life begins.

Remember not to collect inhabited or live shells; these living mollusks are a much needed link to the areas ecosystem. Gulbrandsen explained the importance of the no live shelling rule.

“They are an important food source (oysters), but mainly vital to our local habitats. Without a healthy oyster population, for example, an entire bay ecosystem could collapse. Live shell collecting also affects natural reproduction cycles.”

Since its opening in 1995, the museum has operated as an information and reference center for national and international scientists, students and shell enthusiast who are interested in the marine land and terrestrial mollusks of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida.

“We have a large collections around 750,000 individual types of mollusks,” said Gulbrandsen. “We catalog and record and thousands can be accessed from all over the world through our museum and knowledgeable staff.”

Gulbrandsen offers shelling tips for those walking the beaches.

“My No. 1 shelling tip is to go slow, you’re going to miss a treasure and pass something up, so look at everything,” said Gulbrandsen. “My favorite shell, well I have two: the Carrier Shell because it affixes other shells in a pattern to appear larger and protect themselves from predators. It’s interesting and beautiful. The Lions Paw, which has gorgeous contours and bright colors.”

There is no better place to shellabrate then the go to place for all shellers.

“Sanibel is all about shells and the Shell Museum,” said Gulbrandsen. “The museum is only the second best place to find shells besides our beaches.”

For more information visit www.shellmuseum.org, or www.fortmyers-sanibel.com.