National Shell Museum Adds Lectures to Celebrating 25 Years Series

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

In celebration of its 25-year anniversary milestone, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum’s virtual lecture series continues with the announcement of three new talks.

“8,000 Years of Shells in the American Southeast: Archaeological Insights on the Ecology, Diet, Architecture, and Ritual of Ancient Native Americans”
By Kenneth E. Sassaman, Hyatt and Cici Brown Professor of Florida Archaeology, University of Florida
5 p.m. Aug. 24

Ancestors of Native Americans began collecting freshwater shellfish in large numbers about 8,000 years ago. Marine shellfishing may have begun even earlier, but rising sea since the end of the Ice Age inundated the archaeological remains of coastal dwelling before about 5,000 years ago, when the rate of sea-level rise slowed. Beyond the value of shellfish meat to ancient diets, the inedible shells provided construction material for mounds, causeways, fish traps, and more. In addition, shells were valued as a ritual medium. Beads, gorgets, and ceremonial vessels made from shell attest to cosmological connections among water, earth, and sky, and between the living and the dead. This overview of 8,000 years of dwelling in the American Southeast explores the myriad ways that shell structured the histories of ancient Native Americans.

“Why Am I Growing Giant Clams in the Middle of the Arizona Desert?”
By Dan Killam, Ph.D., Biosphere 2, University of Arizona
5 p.m. Sept. 16

Giant clams are special among bivalve mollusks in using symbiotic algae within their bodies to speed up their growth, like corals do, yet little is understood of how they will fare in the face of climate change and ocean acidification. To look into the future and explore these questions further, researcher Dan Killam is growing smooth giant clams in a 700,000-gallon coral reef tank of the Biosphere 2 in Arizona to understand how they manage to grow their shells so quickly. In the Biosphere 2 “ocean”, juvenile giant clams have more than doubled in size in just one year and will eventually reach two feet long.

The controlled conditions of the Biosphere 2 ocean reef tank provide a perfect setting to explore and experiment. As with corals, the partnership between giant clams and their internal algae only works within a narrow range of temperatures and pH levels. As the oceans grow warmer and more acidic, this relationship will be put under stress, reducing their growth. In this talk, Dan will share insights from his groundbreaking research on the impacts of changing oceans on mollusks, featuring images and video of the singular Biosphere 2 facility.

“Spooky Mollusks and Other Evils of the Deep: A Halloween Special”
By José H. Leal, Ph.D., Science Director and Curator, Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museumz
5 p.m. Oct. 20

To celebrate Halloween and in genuine vampire-seeking fashion, Dr. José H. Leal will unmask the shocking lifestyles of ghastly and bloodcurdling mollusks. Get acquainted with vampire squid and snails, clams that live entombed for life, grave-robbing and corpse-eating snails, parasitic micromollusks addicted to blood, and other harrowing creatures of the molluscan universe. And good luck sleeping after that!

The Celebrating 25 Years lecture series is free, but registration is required at

About the Museum: The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is a Natural History Museum, and the only museum in the United States devoted solely to shells and mollusks. Its mission is to use exceptional collections, aquariums, programs, experiences, and science to be the nation’s leading museum in the conservation, preservation, interpretation, and celebration of shells, the mollusks that create them, and their ecosystems. Permanent exhibitions on view include the Great Hall of Shells which displays highlights of the Museum’s collection of some 500,000 shells, as well as the Beyond Shells living gallery of aquariums and over 50 species of marine life. For more information on the Museum, visit or call (239) 395-2233.

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