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Michelle Sees Sea Shells

It helps to grow up near the beach. A visit to the seashore and all its treasures are easy to obtain. And there is sometimes that person in the crowd who forgoes the chance to sunbathe and instead wanders off in search of “critters.” That person was always me as a child, net in hand , waist-deep in the water with my toes sliding through the sea grass…and collecting shells!

I kept an aquarium whose occupants never came from a store. I watched the aquarium the way most young people watched TV. I noticed that some sea creatures have species-specific “personalities:”  shrimp make good garbage collectors, blennies are territorial, and snails keep the walls clear of algae. I noticed that a strange little fish that buried itself in the sand during the day came out at night to nosh on its neighbors. (It did not start out looking like a barracuda…).

I spent part of my junior year in college at Duke’s Marine Lab, studying “lower invertebrates,” a group which includes a lot of worms. Years later I went along on about a dozen multi-day school trips to the Georgia coast where I learned more about coastal ecology. Along the way,  I realized that everything that washes up onto the shore has a story to tell.

And now, I want to tell you some of those stories with photos I have taken through a microscope.

Why a microscope? For starters, I have enjoyed the use of a microscope since I was about 8 years old. I looked at lots of things: salt crystals, fly wings, cloth, pond scum with all its microscopic inhabitants… In graduate school, I looked at thin slices of mutant frog embryos. In the Cytogenetics lab where I worked, I looked at chromosomes.

About a year ago, a friend gave me a digital microscope used mainly for industrial purposes, such as scanning micro-circuitry to make precise measurements.  With a brass sleeve fitted onto it so that it could be secured into the heavy base of an old dissecting scope, I grabbed a broken piece of scallop shell to take the microscope for a test drive.

What started as:

Scallop shell on sand. Shells transform under the microscope!



Colorful Scallop Photo
Scallop shell from Pensacola Beach, FL.

Oh.  I mean “OH!!”

When it comes to scallops, ridges have ridges. And with just the right lighting, something wonderful appears.

So began my study of “ugly shells.” I hope you will enjoy, as much as I have, the chance to take a closer look.

Like what you see? Shop The Ugly Shell!


1 thought on “Michelle Sees Sea Shells

  1. Your work is absolutely beautiful. Look forward to filling some Christmas stockings with your art.

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