Code of Ethics

Approved by the Board of Directors on June 2, 2017


Conchologists of America (COA) is a tax-exempt educational non-profit organization under the provisions of Article 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Service Code (Tax ID 112541695).

Purposes of COA

“The purposes of this organization are to disseminate knowledge about mollusks, to encourage research on mollusks, and to increase the awareness of the need for preserving habitats and the health of molluscan populations through meetings, lectures, publications, grants and exhibits.”

Development of COA'S Code of Ethics

In 2017, a committee consisting of José H. Leal (chair), Tom Eichhorst, Tom Grace, Richard Kirk, President Harry G. Lee (ex officio), and Treasurer Steven Coker (ex officio) was tasked by COA President Harry G. Lee to draft a Code of Ethics for the organization. This Code was revised and approved by COA Board of Directors (BOD) on the date indicated above.

Objectives of the Code of Ethics

  • The Code identifies core values on which COA’s Purposes are based;
  • The Code summarizes broad ethical principles that (1) reflect the core values stated in COA Purposes above and (2) establishes a set of specific ethical standards that should be used to guide the BOD, employees, volunteers, and, to some extent, the COA Membership and shell collectors at large;
  • The Code provides ethical standards to which the general public can hold COA and its BOD accountable.


The BOD holds the ultimate fiduciary responsibility for the institution. The COA Constitution and Bylaws explain this and other attributions of the BOD in detail. Additionally, the BOD will foster and monitor the financial structure of COA, such that COA continues to exist in perpetuity as a vital, dynamic, relevant, and first-class organization that represents the interests and needs of shell collectors, students, researchers, citizen scientists, and society in general.

Board of Directors Ethics

Elements of this document that are directly relevant to the ethical behavior of the BOD, as a whole or as it applies to its individual members, include, but are not exclusive to: molluscan conservation, conflict of interest, intellectual property, equal employment opportunity, and discrimination and harassment policy.

Molluscan Conservation

COA strongly supports informed management and conservation policies for mollusks, and formally adopted the following Resolution for Responsible Scientific Collecting on June 26, 1995. Wording for the Resolution was composed by Dr. Gary Rosenberg (Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University). The Resolution was first published on the back cover of the September 1995 issue of the American Conchologist“Whereas there are an estimated 100,000 species of living mollusks, many of great economic, ecological and cultural importance to humans, and Whereas habitat destruction and commercial fisheries have had serious effects on mollusk populations worldwide, and Whereas modern conchology continues the tradition of amateur naturalists exploring and documenting the natural world, be it resolved that the Conchologists of America endorses responsible scientific collecting as a means of monitoring the status of mollusk species and populations and promoting informed decision making in regulatory processes intended to safeguard mollusks and their habitats.” This resolution has also appeared on page 2 of every issue of American Conchologist since September, 1996.

Conflict of Interest

Conflict of Interest is a situation in which someone in a position of trust has a competing professional or personal interest. Such competing interests can make it difficult to fulfill his or her duties impartially. A conflict of interest exists even if no unethical or improper act results. For management and governance purposes, there is no difference between conflict of interest and the appearance of conflict of interest, as the latter condition may easily develop into the actual conflict.
No individual may use his or her COA director position or property for his or her personal gain or to benefit another, or act in a way that hints at the appearance of conflict of interest. No more than one member of a family (spouse, life partner, sibling, parent, or child) may serve as a director simultaneously. It is understood that certain ad hoc committees not exclusively comprised of Directors may include more than one family member under special conditions and considerations, e.g., that six Neptunea Awards were given to couples for their service to COA, but in voting matters only a single ballot may be cast by them. Furthermore, no director is to have a financial interest in, or to receive any compensation from any agency, vendor, or supplier when performing business transaction on behalf of COA. It is the policy of this organization that all directors undertake their respective responsibilities with an unbending duty of loyalty and fidelity consistent with a fiduciary relationship. This means that directors must administer the affairs of this organization honestly and economically, exercising their best care, skill, and judgment for the benefit of COA.
Whenever a matter arises for action by a BOD member, employee, or volunteer engaging in an activity where there is a possible conflict of interest or the appearance of conflicts between the interests of COA and an outside or personal interest of the individual, the outside interest of this BOD member, employee, or volunteer should be made a matter of record. In such cases where a BOD member is present in a BOD meeting when a vote is taken in connection with such a question, he or she should abstain. Sometimes neither disclosure nor abstention is sufficient for a BOD member and the only appropriate solution is resignation from the BOD.

Intellectual Property

COA will in principle hold the rights to all work products, inventions, discoveries, copyrightable works, and other developments conceived or performed by BOD members on behalf of the organization.

Equal Opportunity Employment

Despite the fact that COA daily chores are performed mostly by members of its BOD and other volunteers, COA may eventually hire employees to perform specific tasks. COA Directors will treat all colleagues, volunteers, and employees and applicants for employment equally, without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, age, physical or mental disability, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law. COA bases all employment decisions on the candidates’ qualifications. This applies to other employee actions such as compensation, benefits, discipline, terminations, lay-offs, and training.

Discrimination and Harassment

Any form of harassment is a violation of COA policy. The institution recognizes a broad definition of that term.

Statement of Collecting Ethics

The sensible and ethical collecting of shells and mollusks brings value to the scientific and educational programs that advance the stated COA Purposes. COA therefore adopts the following standards for collection of specimens: (1) Prior notification was made and permission or appropriate permits were secured from landowners, managers of private or public lands and parks and other appropriate authorities and agencies where applicable. (2) All collecting was in compliance with federal, state, and municipal laws and regulations applied to fossil, mollusk, and shell collecting.


Document Destruction and Retention Policy


COA records are important assets. COA records essentially include all documents, whether paper or electronic, produced by the Board of Directors (BOD), staff, and/or volunteers while in the performance of their assignments and responsibilities.

Document Destruction and the Law

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act addresses the destruction of business records and documents and turns intentional document destruction into a process that must be carefully monitored. The law requires COA to maintain certain types of records, usually for a specified period of time. Failure to retain those records for those minimum periods could subject the BOD to penalties and fines, cause the loss of rights, obstruct justice, spoil potential evidence in a lawsuit, place COA in contempt of court, or seriously disadvantage COA in litigation.


COA expects all Directors, employees, and volunteers to fully comply with any published records retention or destruction policies and schedules. Directors, employees, and volunteers should note the following general exception to any stated destruction schedule: If you believe, or COA informs you, that those records are relevant to litigation, or potential litigation (i.e., a dispute that could result in litigation), then you must preserve those records until the President, or COA’s legal counsel, determines the records are no longer needed. That exception supersedes any previously or subsequently established destruction schedule for those records. If you believe that the exception may apply, or have any questions regarding the possible applicability of that exception, please contact the President.

policy Revision and Additional Records

COA may establish revised retention or destruction policies or schedules for specific categories of records in order to ensure legal compliance, and also to accomplish other objectives, such as to preserve intellectual property and cost management. Several categories of documents that bear special consideration are identified in the COA’s Records Retention Schedule, a copy of which is attached below. While minimum retention periods are suggested in the Records Retention Schedule, the retention of the documents identified therein and of documents not included in the Records Retention Schedule should be determined primarily by application of the general guidelines affecting document retention identified above, as well as any other pertinent factors.


Failure to comply with this Document Retention Policy may result in punitive action against the Director, employee, or volunteer, including suspension, termination, or litigation. Questions about this policy should be referred to the BOD, who is in charge of administering, enforcing, and updating this policy.