Shells and mollusks, the animals that create shells, are the center of programs and events at the 48th annual Conchologists of America Convention June 17-23 at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. SC file photo
Shells and mollusks, the animals that create shells, are the center of programs and events at the 48th annual Conchologists of America Convention June 17-23 at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. SC file photo

Shell collectors from around the United States and Canada will meet June 17-23 at the South Seas Island Resort, Captiva, for the 48th 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. It is not required to be a member of COA to attend the conference. It is open to anyone who is interested in shells, marine life and our oceans.

During the conference, 17 guest speakers will cover a wide variety of topics. For example, professional underwater photographer Linda Ianniello, a “black water diver” who follows a glowing ball to depths of more than 500 feet, will show her photography of mollusks found there. Gene Everson from Louisville, Ky., will share his shell collecting experiences in Mozambique and Madagascar, while Dug Wolfe from Beaufort, N.C., tells about the mollusks found in his own back yard.

Anne DuPont will speak about “Mollusks in Medicine” and Tom Annesley will tell 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 this 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 the museum’s first director. Regretfully, he did not live long enough to see the completion of his dream.

Dr. José 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 and banquet speaker Dr. Henry Chaney, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, sharing interesting stories about Tucker’s life.

Saturday morning Paul Callomon, Drexel University, will be introducing the new book by Wolfgang Grulke, BEYOND EXTINCTION: The Eternal OceanClimate Change and the Continuity of Life. After his introduction attendees will travel live via satellite to Dorset in the United Kingdom to meet Wolfgang. Wolfgang will then lead a behind-the-scenes tour of his museum and show items from his collection on which the book is based.

A live Q & A with Paul and Wolfgang 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 later in the day at The Bourse.

Membership in the COA or a shell club is not required to attend the convention. Registration fees are the same for members and non-members alike. Although registration is required to attend the lectures and social functions, two events are open to the public free of charge. These are the auction and “The Bourse.”

An auction of shells and shell-related items is held each year to raise funds for the Conchologists of America Scholarship Fund. 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. It will be held Thursday evening in the Captiva Ballroom. The auction preview begins at 6:00 with the auction following at 7:00. Attending the auction is free, but you must register to be able to bid.

The word “bourse,” goes back to the 1570’s in France and means “an exchange.” However, at COA it means “the largest shell market ever” with shell dealers coming from all parts of the world to participate in it. Many of the shells are beyond description. The Bourse is open Saturday from 1 to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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