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COA convention to focus on shells

By Staff | Jun 4, 2019

Shell collectors from around the United States and Canada will gather at the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva from June 17-23 for the 48th annual Conchologists of America Convention.

The week will be filled with programs and events that center around a common interest – seashells and mollusks, the animals that create shells. Open to anyone who is interested in shells, marine life and the oceans, the convention activities require registration, plus associated fees, except for two events.

Free and open to the public are the auction and the “Bourse,” or Shell Market.

During the conference, 17 guest speakers will cover a variety of topics. Professional underwater photographer Linda Ianniello, a “black water diver” who follows a glowing ball to depths of over 500 feet, will show her photography of mollusks found there. Gene Everson, from Kentucky, will share his shell collecting experiences in Mozambique and Madagascar, while Dug Wolfe from North Carolina will talk about the mollusks found in his own backyard.

Anne DuPont will speak on “Mollusks in Medicine,” and Tom Annesley will cover how the study of venomous cone snails led to the discovery of a powerful painkiller that is now FDA approved. With topics from tree snails to fossils, shelling in Jamaica to a NOAA Okeanos scientific cruise, and with one presentation titled “Silence of the Clams,” there will certainly be something for everyone.

The convention will also be a celebration of Dr. R. Tucker Abbott’s life. This year marks what would have been the 100th birthday of the renowned conchologist and malacologist. Tucker was to shell collectors as Audubon was to birder watchers. He was the driving force behind the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel and was its first director. Regretfully, he did not live long enough to see the completion of his dream.

Dr. Jos Leal, science director and curator at the museum, will present the first program of the conference titled “Building a Shell Museum from Scratch: The Many Contributions of R. Tucker Abbott.” The convention will close with a birthday party for Tucker, with banquet speaker Dr. Henry Chaney, from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, sharing stories about Tucker’s life.

On June 22, Drexel University’s Paul Callomon will introduce the new book by Wolfgang Grulke, “Beyond Extinction: The Eternal Ocean. Climate Change and the Continuity of Life.” After, attendees will travel live via satellite to Dorset in the United Kingdom to meet Grulke. He will lead a behind-the-scenes tour of his museum and show items from his collection on which the book is based. A live question-and-answer with Callomon and Grulke on matters arising from the challenges raised by his book will follow. Fifty limited edition and signed copies of the book will be for sale at the Bourse.

An auction of shells and shell-related items is held each year to raise funds for the Conchologists of America Scholarship Fund. It will be held on June 20 in the Captiva Ballroom, with the preview beginning at 6 p.m. and the auction starting at 7 p.m. The auction offers a variety of rarely seen and highly desirable specimen shells. For most people, this is a chance in a lifetime to see some of them. Attending the auction is free, but people must register to be able to bid.

The Bourse will be held on June 22 from 1 to 8 p.m. and June 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the resort. The word “bourse” goes back to the 1570s in France and means “an exchange.” At the COA it means “the largest shell market ever,” with shell dealers coming from all parts of the world to participate.

For more information, contact Convention Chair Anne Joffe at 239-472-3151.

For the full list of events, visit conchologistsofamerica.org/conventions.