About the 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. Before the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab opened, sea turtles that were stranded in the Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Flagler county areas that make up Northeast Florida had to be transported to facilities in Georgia or central Florida, and often spent hours in transit – time that was critical to the survival of the sick or injured sea turtle. Not only did 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 were permitted to take turtles with the Fibropapilloma (FP) virus – the most significant infectious disease among sea turtles in our waters. Now that the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab is open, the team cares for injured or sick sea turtles with Fibropapilloma found throughout Northeast Florida. In 2016, its first full year open, the hospital rehabilitated and returned nine sea turtles back into the wild.

Watch these short videos to learn about the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab. 

In the News

Check out this article by the University of Florida about the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab and a patient released from the hospital, Cisco Kid.

Read Article

Pelican Post Magazine
The Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab was featured in the Pelican Post‘s Fall 2017 issue. The article shared information about the hospital’s focus on rehabilitation, research and education. The article also talked about the achievements of the hospital in 2017. Read the full article, which starts on page 16.

First Coast News
Researching turtle tumors in Flagler could help human medicine

Two Sea Turtle Released at Crescent Beach

Nat Geo Wild
On Sept. 21, 2016, the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab released Sebod, and Nat Geo Wild was there to film the release. Filipe Deandrade was on assignment and shared the release through a live video on the Nat Geo Wild Facebook page. The video begins with an interview with Catherine Eastman, program coordinator of the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab. She is holding soon-to-be-released Sebod. At the end of the video, Sebod returns back home to the ocean.

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 provides excellent medical treatment to rehabilitate debilitated and injured sea turtles. Once healthy and cleared by Whitney’s veterinarian, the turtles are released back to their habitat and in some cases, affixed with a satellite transmitter that enables scientists to further monitor their post-rehab habits.

The two 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 is needed. The Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab is equipped to house and study turtles with FP. While under our care, scientists 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 Lab. Educational programs for school groups and the general public provide an overview of the research and rehabilitation work happening at the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab. We are connected to the community through multiple forms of media, website, social media and videos. By collaborating with other “brick and mortar” museums and education centers, our plan is 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 jessicalong@whitney.ufl.edu.

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

2. Consider volunteering 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 904-461-4028 or cbeastman@whitney.ufl.edu.

Thelping-seaturtles-stickershank you to the Sea Turtle Grants Program for helping establish our Surgery Suite and its continued support of the hospital’s programs and projects.