H2O Lecture Series
Free, virtual event, presented via Zoom.
By José H. Leal, Ph.D., Interim Director & Curator, Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
Dr. Leal will discuss the some of the most recent finds and facts about the influence of ocean acidification on mollusks. Mollusks are small, slow-moving, slimy 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% 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. And, 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 that human-induced phenomenon.
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 those delicate structures. Acidification is already a tangible threat to several species of planktonic mollusks, including sea butterflies (pteropods), which are key links in open-ocean food webs, serving as food for many species of fish, which in turn feed larger animals such as 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 species of molluscan species.
About the Speaker: José H. Leal, Ph.D. was the first Executive Director after the National Shell Museum’s Grand Opening in 1995. His love for shells and sea life goes back to his childhood years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. José 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). José 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, José has worked tirelessly to improve the Museum’s collection, deciphering the complexities of mollusk identification and systematics, and interpreting mollusk science to the Museum’s audience at large. It was through José’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. He directed 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.
In 2016, José 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.
"Shells and Bad Water:
Ocean Acidification and its Effects on Mollusks"
By Cynthia Barnett, Award-Winning Environmental Journalist
Water defines us as Floridians no matter where we live: Idyllic beaches surround us on three sides. Rivers and streams flow for ten thousand miles through the peninsula. We’re blessed with nearly eight thousand 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. In her program Blue Revolution: A Water Ethic for America & Florida, environmental author Cynthia Barnett shows audiences how one of the most water-rich states in the nation could come to face water quality and scarcity woes—and how it doesn’t have to be this way. With a shared ethic for water, Floridians come together to use less and pollute less, and work with nature as we prepare for sea-rise and the other tremors of a changing climate. Join us this Earth Day to learn how Florida can live well with water today, in ways that don’t jeopardize fresh, clean water for our children, ecosystems, and businesses tomorrow.
About the Speaker: Cynthia Barnett is an environmental author and journalist who has covered water and climate stories around the world. She is the author of three books including Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, longlisted for the National Book Award, a finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing, and named among the best nonfiction books of 2015 by NPR’s Science Friday, the Boston Globe, the Tampa Bay Times, the Miami Herald and others. Her new book, The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans, will be published in July by W.W. Norton. She has written for National Geographic, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Discover magazine, and many other publications. She is Environmental Journalist in Residence at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.
A Water Ethic for America and Florida"
By James Evans, Environmental Policy Director, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
James’ presentation will explore Florida's water quality issues from the state, regional, and local perspectives, focusing on the impact water quality is having here in Southwest Florida. He will discuss the factors contributing to poor water quality and harmful algal blooms─such as blue-green algae and red tide─and how harmful algal blooms in 2018 impacted the ecology of our coastal waters and Sanibel’s local economy. I will also discuss the relationship between our water quality issues and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and how CERP will help restore the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of freshwater flows delivered to the Caloosahatchee estuary.
About the Speaker: James Evans is Environmental Policy Director for SCCF. As Policy Director, he is responsible for interpreting science to create, inform, and advance environmental policy in Southwest Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a master’s degree in Environmental Science from Florida Gulf Coast University. James has more than 20 years of experience working on water resource issues and Everglades restoration. Prior to joining SCCF, James was the Director of Natural Resources for the City of Sanibel and was the primary author of the Caloosahatchee Watershed Regional Water Management Issues white paper—a document outlining short-and long-term strategies to address the freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed.
"Southwest Florida's Water Quality Challenges and the Urgent Need to Complete Everglades Restoration"