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Shell Ambassadors enhance visitors’ time on the beach

By Staff | Aug 9, 2017

Kelle Covington, who is also known as Shelle Kelle, shares her wealth of shell knowledge as a docent at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum and as a Shell Ambassador. PHOTO PROVIDED

Kelle Covington lives and breathes shells.

Covington, a docent and Shell Ambassador with the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, has been collecting shells for as long as she can remember. After moving from Reno, Nevada, to Bonita Springs six years ago, Covington became interested in volunteering at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.

In July 2015, she became an exhibit docent.

“I fell in love with the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum when I visited it. I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Covington said. “Every time I’m there I’m learning about shells and mollusks. I learn so much. Everyone who works there is so nice and they enhance my life. Now, I’m surrounded by shells.”

Last October, her love of volunteering at the museum led her to becoming a Shell Ambassador – Covington was in the first graduating class. As a Shell Ambassador, Covington leads by example and shares her wealth of knowledge of all things shell-related to those visiting the beach.

“I feel so proud to represent and help enhance the reputation of the museum by educating beach-goers about shells and all the other natural wonders that can be found on our Southwest Florida beaches,” Covington said.

For those interested in becoming a Shell Ambassador, volunteers must complete a one-day training class while successfully demonstrating their knowledge through assessments. Some of the content consists of Southwest Florida shells, interpretation of beach ecosystems, public relations strategies and how to respond to legal and ethical dilemmas. Study materials will be provided ahead of training. The one-day training program lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For $90, participants will receive their advanced study materials, a full day of training, a free continental breakfast and lunch, an official Shell Ambassador T-shirt (if the course is successfully completed). The program does have additional perks: those who complete 20 hours of volunteering will receive a Golden Olive membership to the museum which is valued at $100. The next Shell Ambassador training day is Friday, Oct. 20.

Advanced Shell Ambassador training will be offered Saturday, Nov. 4, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to those who are already certified Shell Ambassadors. Some of the advanced Shell Ambassador training topics include scaphopods, cephalopods, local avian fauna, invertebrates, museum collections and the reproductive and feeding habits of local mollusks.

For more information about the program, contact Stefanie Wolf at (239) 395-2233 or email her at swolf@shellmuseum.org. Those interested in registering in either classes can sign up at shellmuseum.org/programs-events/shell-ambassadors.

“It’s so much fun watching (visitors) and helping them see the beauty in everything that surrounds them,” Covington said. “I love people, I love the ocean, I love seeing the beautiful colors coming along and then just sharing it with these families – they love hearing and learning about the shells.”

Aside from her life at the museum, Covington is an active member in the Sanibel Captiva Shell Club and she maintains her ever popular and growing Instagram profile, (shellekelle) where she posts her daily shell finds from local Southwest Florida beaches. With over 23,000 followers, Covington credits her to success to using the maximum 30 hashtags Instagram allows.

“There’s no better platform than Instagram to share my daily positive affirmations,” Covington said. “I’m just sharing my tropical positivity.”