World-Renowned Malacologist Celebrates 25 Years with Shell Museum

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Dr. Jose Leal

With great respect and gratitude, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum proudly celebrates world-renowned malacologist Dr. José H. Leal and his 25 years of loyal service researching mollusks and the fascinating shells they create.

After the National Shell Museum’s opening in 1995, Dr. Leal became its first Executive Director. His love for shells and sea life goes back to his childhood years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Dr. Leal received his PhD in Marine Biology and Fisheries from the University of Miami. He has served as an Assistant Editor for Sea Frontiers Magazine (Miami), a Visiting Professor at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Paris), and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC). Dr. Leal holds honorary faculty positions at the University of Miami and Florida Gulf Coast University (Fort Myers), where he is an affiliate member of the Coastal Watershed Institute. He is also a past president of the American Malacological Society and of Conchologists of America, a past board member of the Florida Association of Museums, an Accreditation Peer Reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums, and editor of The Nautilus.

Throughout his tenure, Dr. Leal has worked tirelessly to improve the Museum’s collection which now includes over 130,700 lots of mollusks, comprising almost one million individual specimens.

In 2016, Dr. Leal led the Museum in hosting the Mollusks in Peril Forum, a 2.5-day event that brought together scientists, students, and concerned citizens to examine large-scale threats to mollusk populations. He also led the Florida United Malacologists (FUM) meetings at the Museum in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 – a one-day gathering designed to facilitate and enhance communication among professional, amateur, and student malacologists.

It was through Dr. Leal’s leadership that the Museum was awarded a 15-year accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2010. As a result of this accreditation, the Museum could demonstrate to its communities, donors, and sponsoring agencies its commitment to excellence and continued institutional improvement. Today he is working in the oversight of the American Aquarium & Zoological Association (AZA) Accreditation for the new Beyond Shells: Living Gallery exhibits, which opened to the public on March 1st, 2020.

The Museum is honored to congratulate Dr. Leal on this exciting 25-year milestone. His work – past, present, and future – provides an invaluable contribution to the Museum’s mission to increase knowledge of and appreciation for mollusks and their shells, using its collections, programs, and expertise to inspire learning, support scientific research, and tell the story of the importance of mollusks to people and the natural world.

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