Sea Turtle Hospital

The Sea Turtle Hospital opened in October 2015 to provide rehabilitation, education and research for sea turtle conservation in Northeast Florida.

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Avocado

Released January 2022, Gamble Rodgers State Park

Avocado was the 56th patient in 2021 and originally stranded on March 21, 2021 in Daytona Beach. She was treated for fibropapillomatosis and had six tumor removal surgeries in total.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Kiwi

Released December 2021, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Kiwi is a small juvenile green turtle that was found buoyant and struggling to dive in New Smyrna Beach close to Chicken Island on March 22nd. She was initially transported to Volusia Marine Science Center where it was confirmed Kiwi was FP positive. She was then transferred to the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory. Kiwi recently had surgery and is currently “tumor free”. She had several more months of recovery and treatment and was then ready to go home!

Sea Turtle Hospital

Goya

Released September 2021, River to Sea Preserve

Goya arrived on April 2 from Crescent Beach and is our 65th patient of 2021. Upon arrival, she was thin and had 90% of her carapace (shell) covered in epibiota (organisms that live on turtles). After intensive care including antibiotics, fluid therapy, and vitamin supplements she started to gain weight and was ready for surgery. While in our care Goya had four Fibropapilloma (FP) tumor removal surgeries and was transported to Precision Imaging twice for routine CT imaging.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Avocado

Released January 2022, Gamble Rodgers State Park

Avocado was the 56th patient in 2021 and originally stranded on March 21, 2021 in Daytona Beach. She was treated for fibropapillomatosis and had six tumor removal surgeries in total.

Sea Turtle Hospital
Recent Releases - Click on each image above to read each turtle's story

THE SEA TURTLE HOSPITAL AT WHITNEY LABORATORY

The Sea Turtle Hospital opened in October 2015 to provide rehabilitation, education and research for sea turtle conservation in Northeast Florida. The hospital rehabilitates debilitated and injured sea turtles, and, once healthy and cleared by the veterinarian, releases them back to their habitat. In its first year (October 2015-October 2016), the hospital rehabilitated and released 10 sea turtles.


If you see a turtle on the beach or struggling in the surf, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922.

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.


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

 

REHAB

REHAB

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.

RESEARCH

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.

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EDUCATION

EDUCATION

Community 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.

School Programs

Community Programs

5

Sea Turtles Released in 2021

117

Total juvenile turtle intakes for the current year

446

Total juvenile turtle intakes since opening

Washback Season Internship

Applications must be received by August 12 for the fall washback season intern position.

Internship begins September 6th-November 30th

The internship at The Sea Turtle Hospital @ UF Whitney Lab is designed to be a career learning experience. Interns will gain first-hand experience in data collection, sanitation procedures, food preparation, and sea turtle husbandry.  Students interested in interning at the hospital should be working towards a degree in marine biology, veterinary medicine or a related field. Recent graduates seeking experience in these fields are also accepted.

Washback or Post-Hatchling wash back season occurs each year on the Atlantic coast of Florida during the late summer and fall months. It is during this time that hundreds and sometimes thousands of post-hatchling sea turtles wash back on the beaches without the ability to swim back to their developmental habitat in the sargassum seaweed. Typically accompanied by large mounds of sargassum seaweed washing ashore on the beach.

Interns will work within all areas that make up the Sea Turtle Hospital, to gain in-depth knowledge of sea turtle husbandry and medical treatment through a unique phase-training program. This allows the individual to become familiar with husbandry and medical procedures used at the hospital.  Interns assist our staff with husbandry and treatment of all sea turtle patients in residence.  Interns also help with lab procedures, sample processing, and record keeping.

Interns will participate in professional development activities, such as staff meetings, in-house training, seminars, evaluations, and resume-building experiences.  Interns will be responsible for completion of an independent project and will present on it at the end of their internship.

Interns also participate in hospital activities, the development of educational and interactive displays, and community programs.  Interns will be exposed to all areas of the hospital and leave with a well-rounded knowledge of not only how the hospital operates on a daily basis, but also with an extensive knowledge of conserving our marine ecosystems.

Duties
  • Individual food preparation
  • Maintenance of animal enclosures (scrubbing, water changes, water/air monitoring, filter maintenance, water quality) under supervision.
  • Help maintain life support systems
  • Clean food-prep and other back-up areas
  • Assist in care for animals undergoing rehabilitation
  • Assist in rescue and salvage responses
  • Participate in post-mortem work and necropsies
  • Assist in weekly sea turtle physicals
  • Record-keeping
  • Complete an independent project
  • Assist and lead public behind-the-scene tours of the hospital (under supervision)
Qualifications
  • Currently enrolled in or graduated from college or university
  • Must be available to work from September 1 through November 30 (dates may slightly vary pending an individual’s school)
  • Interns should demonstrate strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Students that are adaptable, responsible, hardworking, willing to learn, and have attention to detail are encouraged to apply
  • Must be able to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Interns should expect to work 40 hours per week which will include early morning and/or late night.
  • Must be able to lift 50 pounds
  • Must be able to stand for long periods of time
  • Must be able to work in the field during summer/fall months in Florida

If an intern plans to receive school credit for an internship, they must notify staff prior to the internship start date, and it will be the responsibility of the applicant to ensure all required paperwork is completed and submitted.

TO APPLY

Send your resume, cover letter, and three letters of reference to cbeastman@whitney.ufl.edu or The Sea Turtle Hospital @ Whitney Lab, Attn: Catherine Eastman 9505 N. Oceanshore Blvd, St Augustine, FL 32080.  Applications must be received by August 12 for the fall washback season intern position.

Applicants will be notified through email if invited for the interview phase. Interviews are scheduled onsite or Zoom per applicant’s request.

This is an unpaid internship. Housing and living expenses are not included. All interns are responsible for their own housing, transportation, and meals. One uniform shirt will be presented at the start of the internship program. Onsite housing is available for a discounted fee.


WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

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Fill out an application to join our volunteer waiting list.

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Contact Us

Meet Our Team: Sea Turtle Hospital Staff

More Information: Catherine Eastman, Sea Turtle Program Coordinator
904-201-8414 or cbeastman@whitney.ufl.edu

Donation Information: Jessica Long, Senior Director of Advancement
904-201-8408 or jessicalong@whitney.ufl.edu

Media Inquiries: We welcome media inquiries, please use the contact info here.


Sea Turtle Grants Program

Thank you for helping establish our Surgery Suite and its continued support of the hospital’s programs and projects.