By Sue Erwin
Photos by Dusty Hopkins,
Caroline Clabaugh, Sue Erwin
and Christine Cunningham
January/February 2019 GASPARILLA ISLAND 45
Shell collecting is one of the most popular
activities to do when visiting an island, and
some very unusual ones – as well as many
common types – can be found on the beaches
of Gasparilla Island.
Barrier Island Parks Society Executive Director
Sharon McKenzie said one rare type of shell that
has been found in Boca Grande is the Junonia.
“The mollusks inside usually live far from the
shore, so it’s very rare to find one on the beach,”
she said. “In Boca Grande we tend to get a lot of
baby shells, depending on the season. It has a lot
to do with the weather and when they lay eggs.
We do see some shark’s teeth on the beach, but
they're not very big."
Sharon created a beach ambassador program
through BIPS, a 501(c)3 non-profit citizen
support organization, CSO. Its mission is to
inspire the exploration and preservation of our
natural and historic resources. The organization
supports four local state parks: Cayo Costa, Don
Pedro, Gasparilla and Stump Pass. During season, park
rangers and volunteers offer wading adventures,
where guests can dip a net into the estuaries and
view living creatures through magnified viewers.
Rangers can help identify the various kinds of marine
life that exist in our local inlets.
Every year Sharon trains volunteers to go out and
help educate visitors to the island beaches.
"I think it helps a lot of beachgoers," Sharon said.
"We really want to connect the people with the
creatures that inhabit our water, and learn more
about the valuable ecosystem."
Most of the shells in the state of Florida have a
righthanded whirl. If you can naturally pick it up and
hold it with your right hand with the spiral pointing
up, it has a righthanded whirl.