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BMNSM receives funding from national organization


The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum has been awarded a $121,381 grant from the National Science Foundation to support a critical shell collection project in partnership with 14 other major science institutions.

Led by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, the project creates a consortium of 15 collections in the United States to improve data and accessibility for almost 3,000 species — over 4.5 million individual specimens — of marine mollusks found on the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Researchers hope to improve fishery and conservation management practices by compiling, mapping and analyzing species distributions over the past hundreds of years.

“Because natural history collections have specimens collected from the mid-1800s to present, these occurrence records can help track changes in the distribution of species over time,” Dr. José H. Leal, interim director and curator of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, said.

The grant is the first National Science Foundation grant awarded to the Sanibel museum.

“The invitation to partake in research with other well-established and respected organizations positions the museum and its scientific collection among one of the most important of its kind in the U.S.,” Leal said. “And it opens the door for future applications with that prestigious funding agency.”

The grant provides resources for four years of collection work and supports acquiring equipment, hiring specialized staff and training graduate students.

The other collaborating institutions are: Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Delaware Museum of Natural History, Florida Museum of Natural History, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, North Carolina Museum of Sciences and University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.

For more about the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, visit shellmuseum.org.