Animals From An Ancient Shore
by Ione Hunt von Herbing

Stretching across the ancient world,
A vast sea did exist,
Three million years ago
In places known as Texas,
And southeastern New Mexico.
Full with brittle star and coral
The sea-filled basins –
Where now resides the oil.

Here she came from other coasts,
And found to her delight,
A big blue sky, cowboy boots
Endless space, for a mind to take to flight.
An odd home for a marine explorer she thought,
But then found more . . .
For amongst the cattle and the Jimson weed,
Lived animals from an ancient shore.

The Permian Sea – they call it now,
Through oil it lives still . . .
In every car and truck,
At every station –
The world can take its fill.
So from waters of a planet blue,
To a land of bluebonnets in the spring,
This marine biologist wandered, and finally settled in.

What of the oceans she held so dear
They live here yet . . .
In white sands of ancient seas,
Once seen – never to forget.
Here, pinon jay – not cormorant,
Ride on desert breeze.
And juniper, mesquite – pine,
Hide shells from prehistoric time.

On this forgotten seabed she did build
Not ranch or fossil excavation
But oceans of her own . . .
Tall seas of glass and steel,
Which fish of modern time call home.
Each day in gratitude she kneels
To pay tribute to life that came before,
Tribute – to sea animals from an ancient shore.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Sometimes I question why I moved to North Texas — seven hours drive from the oceans I love. “For a job” is the answer — a position as a professor at a University. These jobs are hard to find and getting ever harder these days. So I am grateful for my job and for the memories of ancient oceans that lie beneath my feet, which inspired the poem “Animals from an Ancient Shore.”

PHOTOGRAPH: “West Texas oil well” by Texas Raiser.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In 2007, Dr. Hunt von Herbing arrived to the University of North Texas (UNT), where she is Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of the Marine Conservation Aquatic Physiology Laboratory (MCAPL), whose mission is to preserve global marine biodiversity and support sustainable aquaculture practices. Born in Canada, Dr. Hunt von Herbing carries advanced degrees in Oceanography and Physiology. As a research diver and marine scientist for 20 years, she has witnessed the collapse of fisheries across all the world’s oceans. Today her attention is on the preservation of threatened coral reef fishes and developing sustainable methods for commercial food fish culture. Dr. Hunt von Herbing is dedicated to finding ways to make aquaculture sustainable internationally and is working in Mexico to grow fish protein for a country with many poor. When not in the field, she spends her time teaching and conducting research on fish stress physiology with her students in her laboratory at UNT.