The beach and seashells are synonymous – you can’t have one without the other! Read on to learn about the Gulf Coast Shell Club and what they’re currently doing in the Panama City Beach area and their upcoming events. As the children’s tongue twister song goes… Sally sells seashells by the seashore, but while Sally may sell them by the shore it’s not likely she found them there – at least not the perfect ones. Strangely enough, the worst place to look for seashells is by the seashore. Not many species live in that rough and tumble surf and those that do wash up on the shore in good condition, are usually only after strong storms. It’s better to look in sheltered bays or dive offshore. It’s interesting to note that the best shelling times are in December and January.
Many people frequent northwest Florida to visit the beautiful beaches of the emerald coast every year and it’s common for tourists to grab a few shells to take home as a keepsake. However, there are many beachcombers so enamored by seashells that they study and research them to the point they can identify them not only by their common names, but also their scientific names. Formed in 1980, the Gulf Coast Shell Club (GCSC) of Panama City is filled with such shell admirers. Members of GCSC are a group of people interested in shells, where they live, how and where to find them, and all other aspects of their lives and beauty and uses.
They meet on the second Tuesday of every month to enjoy food and fellowship with other shell enthusiasts, win raffle prizes for unique shells, and to participate in guest speaker programs. Since its inception the primary goals of GCSC have been the detailed cataloguing of the marine mollusks of the Florida Panhandle and educating the general public on the beauty and diversity of these shells. GCSC has been instrumental in collecting data on several range extensions in the area and club founder, Bob Granda even discovered a species that was named in his honor. “We maintain a list of species found here and provide it to scientists and other collectors. We also watch changes in habitat for if the habitat is altered or destroyed, so it’s our hobby and study,” said GCSC officer, Jim Brunner. “Some people get interested in shells by finding something on the beach and wondering what they found. To this end GCSC published a book to help visitors and residents identify what they find.” Two editions of the book, Seashells of the Florida Panhandle have been published over the years and many reprints have been made due to popularity and demand.
The book contains data on over 203 shells although there are over 600 species that have been identified in this area. This non-profit organization donates to local colleges and environmental programs to assist their needs and to provide scholarships. Their pinnacle event is the annual Shell Show – this will be their 17th show to be held July 19-20, 2014 at the Panama City Beach Senior Center at 423 Lyndell Lane. Saturday’s venue will be from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm and on Sunday it will run from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission for adults is a mere $2.00 and for children it’s only $1.00. The event is a collaboration of scientific and artistic exhibits. There will be categories for marine shells, land shells and freshwater shells and also an entry for fossils. In addition, there will be a category for sea life which covers echinoderms, starfish, and sand dollars. Scientific judges are Dr. Emily Vokes, who studied murex and worked to expand knowledge about shells, living and fossil and Dr. Emilio Garcia of Louisiana State University. Artistic judges are Phyllis Gray of Orlando, Florida and Merlyn Jones of Panama City. Various awards will be presented. So if you want to attend an educational family friendly event that’s easy on the budget, don’t miss out on the 2014 Shell Show. For more info visit: gulfcoastshellclub.weebly.com.