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Shark truth surfaces in his program

Oceanographer Stewart B. Nelson and his wife, Beverly, scarcely had time to settle into their new home in New Windsor before they plunged into the life of the community.

Mr. Nelson, who lists a doctorate from the University of Southern California among his academic credentials, is on tour this week and next week at local libraries with "Stew's Show of Sharks," an hourlong children's program of slides, shark trivia facts and stories of personal encounters with sharks.

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He also is talking at library branches to older children and adults about the Titanic, whose story has long fascinated him.

Mr. Nelson joined the county Chamber of Commerce soon after he and his wife moved to Carroll County in April. He now is on the chamber's business and education committee.

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Mrs. Nelson, who has multiple sclerosis, publishes the Very Special Traveler, a newsletter for disabled travelers. She is helping to promote the New Windsor Heritage Homes Tour on Oct. 1.

Mr. Nelson's shark lecture is designed to keep youngsters' attention, teach respect for sharks and to counter the idea that sharks are just creatures to be slaughtered.

"I have tremendous respect for these creatures in that undersea world," Mr. Nelson said. "It's their domain and I'm just a visitor."

The 30 children who met at the Westminster library for Mr. Nelson's lecture Tuesday groaned when he told them that the first thing on the agenda was a test. But they soon discovered that the test was to identify sharks by caricatures -- a slice of lemon with a fin (lemon shark), a seated shark strumming a guitar (guitar shark), a blank square on white paper (great white shark).

Some of the children said, "Cool!" when Mr. Nelson told them how sharks can push their stomachs out of their mouths, then return the stomachs inside their bodies.

Mr. Nelson speaks with the accent of his native New York. His family moved to Washington when he was a teen-ager, where he and his wife met in high school. They have been married 39 years, and have a son and a daughter.

Mr. Nelson said he graduated from American University in 1963 with a degree in physics. He went to work on a salvage project in New Orleans, near a sewer outlet. The combination of heat, humidity and the essence of sewage led him to look for another career.

He chose oceanography. He said he received a master's degree from University of Rhode Island in 1974 and his doctorate in 1988. He is a self-employed consultant, and taught public affairs as an adjunct professor at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va., for about five years. He said he stopped teaching in 1994 to devote full time to his consulting agency.

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Mr. Nelson's library talks on sharks are scheduled to continue next week at the Mount Airy and North Carroll libraries.


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