The Texas coast is a natural treasure to many Texans, but few know about its ecologic and economic importance. The Hamman Hall of Texas Coastal Ecology shows visitors how a healthy environment is paramount to maintaining and sustaining a healthy economy. With about 2400 square feet of floor space and a 120 foot wall space adjacent to the new Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife, guests learn about the environmental characteristics of the Texas coast, as well as critical habitats, iconic species, concerns and impacts, recreation, and opportunities for conservation and restoration.
“The Texas coast provides seemingly unlimited resources of many kinds for business, industry, education, recreation, and simply, personal enjoyment,” said Wes Tunnell, HMNS Curator of Marine Biology. “Consequently, many people want to live, work, and play on the Texas coast. Therefore, it is important to balance what we take from and how we use the coast. We now know that a healthy coastal environment leads to a healthy and sustainable coastal economy, so it is important to protect the natural environment which in turn protects the economy.”
The Hall is divided into different coasts in Texas and some of the troubled species natural to that area are displayed in their natural habitat. The upper coast, characterized by plentiful freshwater inflows, is dominated by salt marsh and oyster reef habitats, the middle coast has a smaller population of humans and less rainfall than the upper coast but with considerable salt marshes and oyster reefs; and the lower coast is semi-arid where the Laguna Madre, the most famous hypersaline lagoon in the world, is characterized by seagrass beds and wind-tidal flats. Special dioramas focus on oyster reefs, colonial waterbirds, and the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle of the lower coast and its recovery from near-extinction.
“At the coastal plains end of the Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife, is the latest addition, the Hamman Hall of Texas Coastal Ecology, just opened near the end of May. It is actually part of the animal exhibit, woven along the wall like a sinuous wave line encompassing one whole end of the hall, with lighted wall exhibits and a coastal beach under glass, that holds many of our favorite thing, the shells of the Texas coast!”
– Houston Conchology Society Member Rusti Stover
Our hearts are deeply saddened by the loss of our Curator of Marine Biology Dr. John “Wes” Tunnell.
He provided guidance to the HMNS malacology collection and was instrumental in creating the museum’s Hamman Hall of Coastal Ecology. His expertise and love of sharing the importance of the marine life along the Texas coast is the focal point of our hall. He believed it is important to balance what we take from and how we use the coast. “We now know that a healthy coastal environment leads to a healthy and sustainable coastal economy, so it is important to protect the natural environment.” he said. HMNS also supported a percentage of the publication costs of his last book, The Encyclopedia of Texas Seashells.
We are enormously grateful for his years of dedication to HMNS and his unwavering commitment to the education of our visitors on all things related to the oceans and ocean life. We will miss him.