Sea Turtle Hospital

turtleThe Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney is Open for Patients

Why do we need one?

Injured and sick endangered sea turtles come ashore in Florida’s waters throughout the year.  At the present time, sea turtles that have stranded in the Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, and Flagler county areas that make up Northeast Florida must be transported to facilities in Georgia or central Florida, and often spend hours in transit – time that could be critical to the survival of a sick or injured sea turtle.  Not only does the influx of these turtles cramp the space available to turtles washing in from the regions where the rehab facilities exist, but none of the surrounding hospitals are permitted to take turtles with the Fibropapilloma (FP) virus – the most significant infectious disease among sea turtles in our waters.


Watch our Short Video to Learn about the Sea Turtle Hospital 


The 3 cornerstones of the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab:




Sea turtles wash onto Florida’s beaches for a variety of reasons including but not limited to:  boat strike, cold-stunning (reptiles often can’t tolerate extreme cold), swallowed fish bait and hook, exhaustion from interaction with commercial fishing gear, sick with tumors relating to FP syndrome, and other illnesses. The rehabilitation component of the program will provide excellent medical treatment to rehabilitate debilitated and injured sea turtles. Once healthy and cleared by Whitney’s veterinarian, the turtles will be released back to their habitat and in some cases, affixed with a satellite transmitter that will enable scientists to further monitor their post-rehab habits.

The 2 most common sea turtle species that strand in Northeast Florida include the Loggerhead and Green sea turtles. 








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Research is an important component of the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab.  By engaging researchers/scientists in various areas of expertise, we plan to further the quest for understanding the Fibropapilloma virus. FP is an opportunistic virus that flourishes in sea turtles with weakened immune systems, and can inhibit normal behavior such as feeding and breeding. FP has been reported in growing numbers around the world but has particular prevalence in our local sea turtle population. Scientists and citizens alike have seen sea turtles with this disease in local waters and feel that a multi-disciplinary, scientific and community-based approach to action must be launched now.  The Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab is in the process of acquiring the permits required to house and study turtles with FP.  While under our care, scientists will have the opportunity to learn from turtles that have presented with signs of FP (lesions on soft tissues, etc.) in hopes of advancing the understanding of the FP virus, its life-cycle, transmission and effect on marine animal health.  Additional research interests include the role climate change plays in disease expansion, comparative immunological and microbial studies, investigations into local ocean chemical changes and human influence, and collaborative efforts with Universities in the Caribbean and around the world.  By understanding the etiology of marine diseases, it is hopeful that we can help direct conservation efforts related to overall ecosystem health.



brenda_kids-300x203Community outreach and education is a key initiative of The Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney. Educational programs for school groups and the general public will provide an overview of the research and rehabilitation work happening at the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney. We are connecting to the community through multiple forms of media, website, social media and videos. By collaborating with other “brick and mortar” museums and education centers, we plan to broaden our reach to the community.




1.  Consider a donation to support and sustain the Sea Turtle Hospital!

You can invest in the Sea Turtle Research and Rehabilitation Fund. online or to make a gift contact Jessica Long, Director of Development at (904) 461-4018 or email

2. Join our Friends of the Sea Turtle Hospital to learn more about upcoming events and turtles, and support the Hospital Click here to learn more about becoming a Friend of the Sea Turtle Hospital.

2.  Consider volunteering or interning with the Sea Turtle Program!

We invite you to fill out the required applications and submit them to be put on the waiting list.  If an opening becomes available we always search our waiting list before soliciting help via public avenues.

You can mail completed applications to:  

Whitney Lab     Attention:  Turtle Hospital – Volunteer/Intern      9505 Oceanshore Blvd.  St. Augustine, FL  32080

Thanks for your interest!

For further volunteer information, please visit our Volunteer Page:

3. For further information about the Hospital contact Catherine Eastman, Sea Turtle Program Coordinator at (904) 461-4025 or email


Thelping-seaturtles-stickershank you to the Sea Turtle Grants Program for helping establish our Surgery Suite.