Shell enthusiasts from across the country will gather at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside Aug. 9-15 for the annual Conchologists of America Convention, and everyone from the conch expert to the casual collector is welcome.
COA Convention co-chair Ed Shuller said he expects more than 200 attendees from throughout the United States to attend the weeklong event, which will feature a variety of programs and activities aimed at conchologists from different backgrounds.
“A conchologist can be anyone … just people who have an interest in shells, ranging all the way from the professionals to the casual beach walker who picks up a shell every now and then,” Shuller said during a phone interview.
To cater to multiple levels of interest, Shuller said the presentations would range from educational, such as the scientific study of mollusk species, to the more casual aspects of conchology like shell collecting.
Because the conference is being held in North Carolina for the first time in its history, many programs will focus on the particular species of mollusk that live in and around that area.
“North Carolina is in a unique position in that it’s [located]where two of the major ocean rivers come together, the Gulf Stream from the south and the cold water current, referred to as the Boreal, from the north and they collide off of Cape Hatteras,” Shuller said.
He added that this collision of major ocean currents forms three distinct habitats off the coast of North Carolina: the cold-water environment near the northern coast, the moderate waters off the southern coast and the warm waters near the Gulf Stream — each of which produces its own species of mollusk.
In addition to its location on the coast of North Carolina, the Hilton Wilmington Riverside also provides the conference with upwards of 10,000 square feet to host the many vendors who will display and sell their wares during the final two days of the event.
The vendors will be selling all manner of shell-related items, including jewelry and books. The shell market, which is the largest exhibit of its kind in the nation, will be set up in both ballrooms of the Hilton and will be free to the public.
Also free to the public is the live auction Aug. 12, during which people will be able to bid on 120 rare and unusual shell-related items from around the world. All proceeds from the live auction go to the Conchologists of America grant and fellowship program.
Shuller said the conference serves awareness of conchology.
“The interesting thing about shell clubs and Conchologists of America, it’s a really well-kept secret,” Shuller said. “But there are a significant number of people who are interested in learning about it and are very dedicated in pursuing their hobbies.”
For more information about the Conchologists of America Convention or to sign up, visit www.conchologistsofamerica.org/home/