Large Cache of Diamonds Found on Florida Beach!

by Linda Brunner
Three hundred and twenty-six diamonds were found on St. Pete Beach between July 14 and 19, 1996, all sparkling for the Conchologists of America Annual convention. Most of these gems were set in the beautiful TradeWinds resort, but all did not stay there the entire week. Some were reported in different parts of the Gulf of Mexico, apparently searching for sea shells. I know of one, John Chesler, who found a beautiful golden Murex rubidis. Others were observed at the Florida Aquarium gazing at fish, birds, and mollusks. One of these glittering gems even had a cheek-to-cheek confrontation with a Roseate Spoonbill. The diamond of greatest karat weight was called Betty Lipe. She was a gem of a leader and chief sparkler of this fabulous week. Betty led a group of local diamonds in providing conventioneers with activities that outshone everything else in the area. Our gratitude for the week goes not only to Betty but also to Eleanor Rothoff, Florence Kuczynski, Rob Geater, John and Cheryl Jacobs, Bob Lipe, Dave Green, Doris Underwood, Phil Poland, Elna Bozarth, Mary Jane Heard, Yvonne Bequet, Bobbi Peabody, John Parkhurst, Ben and Josy Wiener, Sharon Snyder, Peggy Williams and all the other gems of the St. Petersburg Shell Club who were too shy to see their names in print.

The week was filled with a treasure chest of activity and information. There were field trips to local shelling spots, a trip on the Environmental Explorer to observe marine life forms, and a trip to the Florida Aquarium. Programs found Bob Lipe looking at diamonds from the past, Jim Brunner and an illustrious panel peering into the future of shell collecting, and Amy Edwards exploring a new frontier, the Internet. In between all this Charlotte Lloyd presented live Caribbean shells, Gene Everson took us to South Africa, Jose Coltro let us explore and rediscover Ecuador, Dr. William Zinsmeister showed us record breaking fossils from the Antarctic, Alice Monroe hypothesized on shell patterns, Rich Goldberg flew us to Indonesia, Betty Jean Piech introduced us to mighty tritons, Dr. Jose Leal plunged us into the deepest Atlantic, Dr. Donald Bosch showed us the Middle East, Hank Foglino let us explore the hazards of the intertidal zone, Debra Ingrao put us close to Octopus vulgaris, and a panel of publicists told of methods to use in promoting shell clubs and their activities. From the welcome party, to the great door prizes, to the bourse, to the banquet, Diamonds in the Sun was fantastic!

During the annual meeting President Linda Koestel thanked last year's board for their contributions in helping to keep COA running smoothly and announced that the board of directors recommended an increase in dues. The membership promptly voted in that increase without discussion. Linda presented the slate of officers for the coming year which was approved by the members. The new officers are: President David Green, Vice President Linda Brunner, Secretary Jean Roe, Treasurer Bobbie Houchin, and Trustee Rosalie Taylor. Mary Owen gave her annual financial report which showed a balance as of June 30, 1996, of $21,720.25. Of this amount there is one money market, two CDs and the balance is in checking.

Dr. Gary Rosenberg announced the winners of COA-sponsored grants. The first Walter Sage Memorial Fund grant went to Ross Gunderson and Russell Minton of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside for work on Puperita pupa and Puperita tristis. Recipients of regular grants were: Scott Bauman, University of Guam; Daniel Geiger, University of Southern California; Kelly West, University of California; Michelle White, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories; David Campbell, University of North Carolina; Jonathon Stone, University of Toronto; Heather Bennett, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Katharina Noack, State University of New York; Matthew Parry, University of Hawaii; Tamara Ross, Iowa State University; Amy Baco, University of Hawaii; Paul Bologna, Marine Environmental Consortium; Lisa Hadway, University of Hawaii and Larry Hyde, Texas A&M University. We look forward to hearing from these recipients in American Conchologist or at a future COA convention. Bobbie Houchin reported an increase in membership and thanked Jose and Marcus Coltro for their distribution of membership forms which was a significant contribution to the increase. Donald Dan reported that COA awarded 21 plaques for display excellence during the past year. Sixteen of these were in the United States and 5 were abroad. Anne Joffe gave a scenic and informative report on the 1997 convention site. Look for upcoming articles for details of next year's meeting.

There was a new feature at the banquet. Each attendee was asked to complete a questionnaire evaluating present convention lengths, time of year, placement of field trips during the meeting, and time of week to hold the meeting. Your leaders want you to be able to attend the conventions at your convenience. Look for the results in American Conchologist. Diamonds were not all that glittered at this convention! The Sage family generously donated Walter's fabric to COA and wow, he had some sparkling yardage! President Linda Koestel announced at the banquet that sales from the fabric for the Walter Sage memorial Fund totaled over $4,000 and that more will be at next year's convention.

Incoming President David Green asked more of us to serve. While some changed jobs, others are new to the board. Newcomers to the Board of Directors are Beverly Deynzer as Historian and Jim Brunner as Financial Director. A new committee that is keeping COA on the cutting edge of communication is the Lambis Group. These are the people who author and maintain the newest diamond in the COA tiara; this is the Conch-Net, our COA home page on the Internet, and also Conch-L, the COA list serve. This illustrious band of computer addicts includes Richard Goldberg, Dr. Thomas Watters, Dr. Emilio Garcia, Linda Koestel, Debbie Wills, John Caldeira, Lynn Scheu, Dr. Gary Rosenberg and Amy Edwards. Amy will be the liaison with the board to report on the workings of this group for the coming year. If you haven't visited the site, you're missing a treat. If you don't know how, ask any 11 year old or a friend who was at the convention.

So you missed this sparkling event? Do you feel left out? Want to be there next year? Just polish your silver and prepare to shine at the 1997 convention, COA's Silver Anniversary celebration at Captiva Island.

This report was published in the September 1996 issue of American Conchologist.