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Shell museum to present lecture series to complement exhibit

By BMNSM - | Feb 16, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED James Evans

To celebrate its “H2O Art Exhibition” on display through April 30, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum will present a free, three-lecture series via Zoom on the life-giving liquid. The series scheduled is as follows:

– Feb. 25 at 5 p.m.: “Southwest Florida’s Water Quality Challenges and the Urgent Need to Complete Everglades Restoration” with James Evans, environmental policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation

The presentation will explore Florida’s water quality issues from the state, regional and local perspectives, focusing on the impact water quality is having in Southwest Florida. Evans will discuss the factors contributing to poor water quality and harmful algal blooms, such as blue-green algae and red tide, and how HABs in 2018 impacted the ecology of coastal waters and Sanibel’s local economy. He will also discuss the relationship between water quality issues and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and how the CERP will help restore the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of freshwater flows delivered to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.

– March 25 at 5 p.m.: “Shells and Bad Water: Ocean Acidification and its Effects on Mollusks” with José H. Leal, Ph.D., interim director and curator for the shell museum

The presentation will cover some of the most recent finds and facts about the influence of ocean acidification on mollusks. Mollusks are small, slow-moving creatures that are barely noticed by most people. But there is much more to them than just a trail of slime or pretty empty shells. Mollusks are the second most diverse group of animals on Earth. There are at least 75,000 known species of mollusks, of which around 60 percent are marine. They are present in virtually all of Earth’s natural environments and ecosystems, including deserts, cold mountain springs, rainforests and the deepest ocean trenches. They are important links in the oceans’ food webs. Given the close association between accelerated increases in dissolved carbon dioxide (ocean acidification) and the chemical processes involved in shell growth, mollusks are probably the earliest to be affected by the human-induced phenomenon.

PHOTO PROVIDED José Leal

Ocean acidification is caused by the increased uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide by sea water. More acidic sea water affects the shells of planktonic (open-water) mollusks, thinning and opening holes in the delicate structures. Acidification is already a tangible threat to several species of planktonic mollusks, including sea butterflies, which are key links in open-ocean food webs, serving as food for many species of fish, which in turn feed larger animals like sea birds, whales and even polar bears. Recent research also shows, for instance, that the small, delicate larval shells of larger species are adversely affected. Minute increases in the oceans’ acidity going forward will certainly prove to be harmful to large numbers of molluscan species.

– April 22 at 5 p.m.: “Blue Revolution: A Water Ethic for America and Florida” with Cynthia Barnett, award-winning environmental journalist

Water defines Floridians no matter where they live: Idyllic beaches surround the state on three sides. Rivers and streams flow for 10,000 miles through the peninsula. Florida has nearly 8,000 lakes and a thousand more freshwater springs — the largest concentration of artesian springs in the world. Florida’s economy and idyllic lifestyle are built on a foundation of pure and plentiful water. Yet, the latest generation of Floridians has not inherited waters as clean and abundant as when they were born. Barnett will show how one of the most water-rich states in the nation could come to face water quality and scarcity woes — and how it does not have to be that way. With a shared ethic for water, Floridians come together to use less and pollute less, and work with nature as they prepare for sea-rise and the other tremors of a changing climate. Learn how to live well with water today, in ways that do not jeopardize fresh clean water for children, ecosystems and businesses tomorrow.

For more information or to register, visit www.shellmuseum.org.

PHOTO PROVIDED Cynthia Barnett