FT. MYERS, Fla. — Jorden Falker is flipping over leaf litter and topsoil in Lakes Park in Fort Myers.
It’s so she can hang out with what’s in there: snails.
Really she just wants to count them – or any evidence of them. And her description of these little beings with eyes on two stalks and little feelers sensing life around them? Adorable.
The marine biologist is studying snails and mollusks, and as the associate director of education, she leads land snail count walks for the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island.
“After I started the job here, I just really fell in love with land snails," Falker said. "They are so cute.”
Falker talked to us about this term “charismatic megafauna.” Animals like pandas and tigers and elephants have such popular appeal. Save room for snails— no eyelashes or big size- still adorbs. @BN9 @BCollinsPhotog #floridaonatankful pic.twitter.com/VHw0rdqlhP— Virginia M. Johnson (@VirginiaJohnson) September 1, 2023
She might be finding tiny snail shells under a wild coffee plant right now, but her treasure hunting started with much larger prey.
“On the beach as a kid growing up in South Carolina, I was looking for shark teeth, and sometimes shells," Falker said. "And when I moved here, I just transferred those skills over.”
Falker leads tours and helps people document their findings.
“So by doing these walks you can help contribute to community science about land snails,” Falker said. “Land snails are pretty notoriously understudied here in southwest Florida.”
The last study was in the early 2000s. Falker says it’s all about the food web.
“That’s one of the most important things is that they are food,” she said. “It’s a tough job being at the bottom of the food web but somebody’s gotta do it.”
Falker hopes to inspire a love of invertebrates.
“To get people interested in snails and learn why they’re important,” she said.
And maybe not pour salt on them.
From your yard to this Lee County Park…and beyond. Be like Jorden Falker…with regard for all creatures, great and small.