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Shell museum planning return eco tour to Costa Rica in 2020
March 13, 2019

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The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum held its first eco tour in 2018, which included exploring several land and marine environments in Costa Rica. Attendees were guided by Dr. Jos Leal, museum curator, and aided by Outreach Coordinator Leigh Gay and guide Erick Guzman, with Holbrook Travel.

"Our first international eco tour took us on an immersive natural-history experience in one of the most remarkable tropical regions of the world," Leal said. "In addition to seeing a wide array of wildlife in some of the more traditional terrestrial environments, we also explored some of the Pacific coast in the southern part of the country, and spent a day snorkeling at offshore Cao Island. We had a chance to see many local mollusks and have discussions and show-and-tell on the go. It's great to see the National Shell Museum expanding its educational experiences to include the rich marine ecosystems of the eastern Pacific Ocean."

Due to the success of the trip, the museum is planning a return trip to Costa Rica in February 2020.

"During the upcoming trip, we will be spending a couple of days in the area of the Arenal Volcano, with the remainder of the adventure dedicated to exploring the central and southern Pacific coasts of Costa Rica," Leal said. "One of the super-interesting angles I like to approach when discussing the tropical eastern Pacific mollusks and their shells is their relationship to well-known Southwest Florida and Caribbean counterparts. There are many 'species-pairs,' one member of the pair from the Pacific, another from the Atlantic. These 'pairs' originated from common ancestors that thrived prior to rising of the Isthmus of Panama. The many opportunities for exploration and ensuing science-oriented discussions make the museum trips truly unique."

From Feb. 3-11, attendees will delve into Costa Rica's diverse habitats, national parks and private reserves while observing the abundant marine mollusks on the Pacific Coast. Trip highlights include:

- Explore a variety of parks and reserves like the Danaus Eco Center, a private ecological reserve in La Fortuna, and Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica's first marine park.

- Discuss Costa Rica's geological history while hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park.

- Go snorkeling at Cao Island to view marine mollusks and immerse yourself in Costa Rica's marine habitats.

- Examine issues of conservation and sustainability as they relate to tourism.

- Learn more about local mollusks and other sea life.

"Our first trip to Costa Rica was an eye-opening experience," Gay said. "From day one until the last night, we were immersed in culture and nature. We covered it all: shelling, snorkeling, whale-watching, birdwatching, hiking and eating. Our hotels had breathtaking views of volcanoes, rainforests, and the vast Pacific Ocean and I can't wait to go back. The itinerary is packed with opportunities for even more exciting learnings along the shore."

For more information, visit www.ShellMuseum.org/eco-tours or contact Leigh Gay at lgay@shellmuseum.org.

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