The woman behind the Seashell: Mary Lyn Rusmore-Villaume

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Her first published book documents the “Sea Shells of the Egyptian Red Sea”, which marks utmost scientific importance as it is the only book documenting the existence of these species.
Talking to Mary Lyn, you can’t help but feel that flowing vibe of independence, self confidence and self-reliance, she truly is an inspiration to all women, making us visualize that dreams can come true if you just try hard enough.
How long have you been living in Egypt?
My husband, my youngest son who was 14 at the time and me came to Egypt in 1992. We lived before in Afghanistan and Sudan and then we returned back to the States until my youngest son was in eighth grade. That’s when a job opportunity in Egypt was offered to my husband and we came, and never left ever since.
What’s the idea behind the interest in seashells?
Well, ever since I was a little girl I was fascinated by gathering shells on the beach. I grew up in California so I was always on the beach gathering shells. I also believe that people should have respect to all sorts of living creatures on earth. They shouldn’t treat seashells as just pretty things to look at. If we know the proper name of something we can have a better relation with it, it becomes real. This is how it all began.
How many shores in Egypt have you passed by during your research?
Along the coastline, I’ve been to all the beaches with very few exceptions all the way from Taba to Sharm El Sheikh through Nuweiba to Shalateen. I’ve been to all the beaches. But one of the most important places I’ve been to is “Wadi El Gamal National Park”, this place is beautiful, it should be left alone for the nature to go wild, the fish, the seashells. It should be left alone without constructions on this small area to protect it. As recently as the 1980s going to any beach along the coast line it would have been covered with shells but now they’re quite rare so this shows something wrong must be going on. Most of the buildings being constructed along the coastline are empty, so no one’s even making money and it’s affecting the nature.
Did you face any sorts of criticism or discouragement from people when they find out you’re researching sea shells, especially that its uncommon to meet female scientists here in Egypt?
Well, the only people I would meet were the coast guards but other than that being a foreigner immunes me from the opposition Egyptian women would normally face. All those who I talked to about the book were scientists and really enthusiastic about it because its new and those who have nothing to do with science would just look at the photos and say this is really interesting, they would be interested in the fact that there are so many species and they never knew. It is worth mentioning that collecting seashells is illegal in Egypt and therefore our research and categorization has been done through onsite photography.
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