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‘Opulent Oceans’ headlines at Shelter Island Public Library


Oceans cover almost three-quarters of the earth. Without them, the planet could not exist nor could humanity survive, yet they remain a relatively under-explored part of our world.

Come to the library on Friday, June 12 at 7 p.m. when Island resident Melanie Stiassny takes us on an epic, oceanic journey while talking about her new book, and helps us learn a little more about this watery wonder.

The publication, “Opulent Oceans: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library,” is a compendium of essays taken from the museum’s rare book collections, which takes a close-up look at coral, jellyfish, sea worms, whales, sharks, squid and more, along with accounts from legendary explorers and early naturalists.

Packaged in a clamshell box, it includes 40 full-color prints, all of which are suitable for framing.

Dr. Stiassny is the Axelrod Research Curator of Ichthyology (the study of fish) at the American Museum of Natural History and has spent her career exploring and trying to understand the oceans and their inhabitants.

She holds both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Ph.D. from King’s College London, has taught at Harvard and Columbia universities and is now a professor in the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Dr. Stiassny is member of the National Council of the World Wildlife Fund, the Advisory Council of Conservation International’s Center for Applied Biodiversity Science and the Advisory Board of National Geographic Society’s Conservation Trust.

When researching this book, Dr. Stiassny was struck by the fact that she “could not find a single volume in the museum’s rare book collection that contained the work of a female marine naturalist.” She did “manage to find a few women doing great stuff but who were unacknowledged by the scientific community of their time.”

There was one botanist, she said, “William Henry Harvey (1811–1866), who went to great pains to single out and thank the women who had contributed to his work.”

Friday Night Dialogues take place on the library’s lower level in the Community Room. The event is free but donations are appreciated.

Coming up: “Preserving Plum Island for Future Generations” with Save the Sound’s Chris Cryder on June 19; and “Hermoine & the Return of Lafayette” with Islander Roger McKeon.