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100 Shells - About Dr. John

Why does he focus on specific beaches? Why he often show beach worn, beat up, seashells?

In January of 2009 John Juskevice, Ph.D. in Biology, University of Chicago, collected seashells while on vacation. St. George Island, in the Florida panhandle. This island has great open ocean beaches and lots of seashells.



Having a computer and an internet connection right in the RV in the campground next to the beach, he tried to identify the shells but couldn't do it. Two weeks later he had tentative identifications of a few of the shells. Months later he had accumulated several seashell identification books and had made some progress.

That was very frustrating. Dr. John knew almost nothing about Atlantic Coast seashell species, but he knew a lot about Pacific Coast shells from his graduate work. What's more he had the education and background that should make shell identification easy.

If he couldn't identify shells he picked up, what could someone without such a background do? He decided to "write a book".
How to write a better shell book
Dr. John finds the internet and many shell books great for identifying seashells. He refers to them often. But those sources didn't work well to get started. There are two areas that Dr. John thinks he can improve: Photos and Complexity.

• Photos
Shell books and the internet usually show one photo of a species. That makes sense, photos of natural things like shells, are hard to produce, and expensive to print. So a carefully selected, extraordinarily perfect, specimen is photographed and shown.

But one photo doesn't showthe range of variation i n the species. It also makes you feel that the bleached, beach worn, worm ridden, beat up, shells that you actually find on a beach aren't any good. But such ordinary 'common' seashells are fascinating, and informative. And they are beautiful, particularly when you clean the sand off and mount them in a display.

From user testing work on instructions, Dr. John learned that the less difference between what you have in hand and the illustration in the instructions, the easier it is to identify it.

• Complexity
From user testing work on assembly instructions, Dr. John learned that the level of complexity changes how information needs to be presented. Assembling a piece of furniture with 8 parts, including 4 identical screws, can use a simpler approach than a piece of furniture with 144 parts, including 5 different screws. The instructions for assembling a complex piece require an approach that breaks the complexity into manageable hunks, that simplifies it.

How can you simplify identifying a seashell someone finds on the beach? It can be one of hundreds of species. Yes, it can, but that's not likely. What is likely, is that a particular beach has a limited list of seashells that can usually be found on it. Confining a book to the common shells at a specific beach enormously reduces the complexity of seashell identification.

A book per beach? How can you do that? There won't be need for enough of the books to afford a decent press run. Dr. John thinks that it can be done if production, sales, and distribution are kept simple. If he desktop publishes, sells through some local outlets, but mostly on the internet, accepts only PayPal or direct payment, and only ships via the US Post Office. Even so, a printed booklet and kit come out a bit pricey.

One of our booklets will let you identify 90% or more of the seashells you find at a beach, and a mounting kit lets you display or store the shells you have identified.

Dr. John's background
Seashells
Dr. John's interest in seashells began with his job while a graduate student. He worked as a "research assistant" for several years. His main assistant job was identifying Gastropods (snails) from hundreds of survey samples of Tomales Bay, California.


View Tomales Bay, CA in a larger map

Dr. John's Ph.D. thesis (Interspecific Correlation and Association in Benthic Marine Communities) is on seashell communities.

Teaching expertise
While an Associate Professor for 14 years at Western Illinois University and Wayne State University Dr. John focused on the technology of teaching: preparing self-study geology laboratory exercises and television programs.

Manual writing
Dr. John spent over 20 years running a technical writing service. As Simplified Directions, Inc., he prepared manuals and instruction sheets for consumer products (such as assembling a barbecue grill or installing an overhead garage door), professional products (such as CD recorder/players that might be used in a television studio) and industrial products (such as stamping presses for the auto industry). Simplified Directions was a problem solver, being called in to fix manuals and instruction sheets when a manufacturer found their instructions weren't working (their customers couldn't properly assemble or operate the product).

Seashell kits, booklets and on-line seashell book
Dr. John focuses scientific expertise, interest in seashells, technology of written communication, and practical experience in solving communication problems to write these easy to follow seashell collecting and mounthing kits, and identification booklets.

The on-line seashell book Beach by Beach Seashells repeats and expands on the species descriptions in the booklets.

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