Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum receives funding from national organization

SANIBEL, Fla. (Aug. 19, 2020) – The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum has been awarded a $121,381 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) 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, 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,” said José H. Leal, Ph.D., interim director and curator of the museum.

The grant is the first National Science Foundation grant awarded to the Bailey Matthews Shell 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 Philadelphia, Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh), Delaware Museum of Natural History (Wilmington), Florida Museum of Natural History (Gainesville), Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian), Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, North Carolina Museum of Science (Raleigh), University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (Ann Arbor).

To learn more about the museum and plan a trip to the scientific institution, visit

About the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is the only museum in the United States devoted solely to shells and the living mollusks that create them. Opened in 1995, its mission is to connect people to the natural world through their love of shells. Extensive collections, programs, and expertise inspire learning, support scientific research, and tell the story of mollusks. A world-renowned malacologist, highly trained marine biologists, environmental educators, and passionate volunteers offer visitors from around the world a wealth of knowledge about the scientific, cultural, historical, and culinary importance of shells. The museum is the leading authority on Sanibel and Captiva shells, with exhibits that include the rare junonias, fig snails, pen shells and more. It also displays some of the largest shells in the world, including the goliath conch, lightning whelk, Atlantic trumpet triton and horse conch. The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is a registered 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.


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