Bringing Sea Turtle Conservation Into Focus - Whitney Lab and UF CITT launch online module

Bringing Sea Turtle Conservation Into Focus - Whitney Lab and UF CITT launch online module

Published: Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience has launched its first Sea Turtle Conservation online learning module in partnership with the University of Florida Center for Instructional Design (CITT) team.

The Sea Turtle Module provides a wealth of information about sea turtles, their anatomy and challenges they face. Users also learn about the Sea Turtle Hospital at UF Whitney Laboratory and its mission. A deeper dive takes the user through a college graduate student's research journey who scientific project is focused on Sea Turtle environmental DNA (eDNA).  The content is modeled after graduate student Jessica Farrell's research while at the Whitney Laboratory. The module explores a research process from start to finish, provides general DNA information, scientific methods and tools used to study DNA and genetics, and research on a disease hampering sea turtles - Fibropapilloma (FP), including its virus transmission routes.

To launch the interactive experience Whitney Laboratory Education Manager Brenda Cannaliato teamed up with UF CITT Instructional Designer Brian Schilling to bring the module concept to life.

“We provided the content including images and videos to Brian and he made it fun and interactive, while keeping accessibility top of mind,” said Brenda.

The Center for Instructional Technology and Training is part of the Office of Academic Technology within UF Information Technology. They provide resources to support teaching, learning, and student success.

“This was a great opportunity to provide my experience in course design, organization and usability with my passion for sea turtles and their conservation,” said Brian. 

The Sea Turtle Module was developed for high school students interested in marine science, coastal veterinary, biotechnology, or health. Six distinct learning sections were created and one can begin their experience with what area interests them most. The entire module takes approximately one hour and once completed, the user is promoted from "intern" to "tech" and can view a sea turtle being released back to the ocean. Review games and quizzes help to reinforce concepts learned.

The module officially kicked off July 25 where Brenda presented at the 2023 National Marine Education Association (NMEA) conference. This event brought together hundreds of professional educators dedicated to teaching about marine, coastal and aquatic environments. Attendees included informal and formal educators from around the country. 

Brenda noted, "This gave us a great opportunity to share our online sea turtle experience to a larger audience of dedicated educators." 

The education team is also focused on sharing the module with high school science teachers in Northeast Florida. Later this year they plan to meet with teachers to find out what they and their students liked and what could be improved for future learning modules.

The Sea Turtle Module was funded by a generous private foundation. In future modules students will continue their eDNA research with a more complex research process, moving from a laboratory setting into a local environment. Whitney Laboratory is currently exploring funding opportunities.

"We see a unique opportunity to continue telling the story of sea turtles and the research being done to conserve them,” said Brenda. 

The module can be found on the Whitney Laboratory website at

Play Module

For any questions, please contact Brenda Cannaliato, Education Manager, at