Marjorie shells out a rare collection for her Marine Zoology class.

You use a collection of seashells for your Marine Zoology class. What is special about it?
The collection is extraordinary and contains over 300 shells—too many to use in a single Block. It is from all over the world and truly showcases the diversity within and across taxa, revealing a dramatic range of features, including growth, form and function.

What’s the benefit to students?
Working hands-on with a collection is a much richer experience than just seeing photos and diagrams. The students study the seashells while preparing them for display, and they learn so much in the process, including the way the animals adapted to a range of predators and habitats. For example, some shells showed evidence of predator drill-holes, breakage and subsequent repair.  Preparing the exhibit is also a great foundation for the field trip to Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre later in the Block, where students work with live animals.

Who donated the collection?
Most of the shells were donated by Dr. Penny LeCouteur, a visiting Chemistry Tutor in Quest’s earlier years. I am donating a smaller collection, which I got from my colleague Dr. David Secord. Penny and David gathered the shells along their travels, and the students plan to interview them to learn more.

Anything else we should know?
Yes. The class read several papers by a leading scientist in the field, who does much of his work on shell morphology by touch because he is blind. The students created a black-box exhibit that invited viewers to feel the shells without seeing them, to challenge them to find out whether they too could detect shell growth and damage patterns simply by touch. It is a remarkable experience for both the students and the viewers—it teaches them to appreciate the attention to detail required, and the degree of expertise acquired, when working mainly through touch.

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