Time to show-off your shell knowledge.

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Most beach visitors can’t help but admire the glossy, colorful sea shells that dot the sand along the South’s shorelines. But it takes a special person to spot a shell on the beach, and immediately know it’s the former home of a Tampa Bay Top Snail or a Florida Fighting Conch or a Sanibel Turrid—or at least really want to know that information. If you happen to fall into the latter category, you may have what it takes to be a Shell Ambassador.

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Florida’s Sanibel Island is looking for a few good seashell-loving volunteers ready to hit the beach and answer beachcombers’ questions about the beauties they find. Shell Ambassadors wander the shoreline wearing easily-identifiable garb that lets people know that they are ready, willing, and able to help them identify the shells they’ve collected in their buckets, sorting their fig snails from their pen shells and their prized Junonias, from their lightning whelks.

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To become a Shell Ambassador, volunteers need to complete a one-day training on the science of seashells, including identification of Southwest Florida shells, interpretation of beach ecosystems, and more. Don’t worry, they give you study materials in advance so you can be ready when it comes to time to assess your shell identification skills. Once you’ve proven your mollusk knowledge and completed all components of the training, volunteers are ready to hit the beach in the official uniform of a Shell Ambassador. Soon you’ll be on the shores of Sanibel and Captiva islands helping visitors understand and appreciate the beauty of the shells they have picked up.

Being a Shell Ambassador means always being curious and always being interested in learning more about the local sea creatures. That’s why the museum offers its volunteers advanced training on topics like the reproductive and feeding habits of local mollusks, scaphopods and cephalopods, invertebrates, local bird life, and the ins and out of the museums collections, and much more. As a token of appreciation for their Shell Ambassadors, the museum gives them a complimentary Golden Olive Membership (valued at $100!) after twenty hours of volunteering.

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