Sea Turtle Hospital


Released April 2019, Ponce Inlet

Holly stranded on Ponce Inlet in Volusia County during the Holiday Season, which lead him to be named Holly. Holly was a cold stun, suffering from a mild case of fibropapillomatosis (FP) tumors. After a month of antibiotics, good nutrition and clean water, we used a CO2 laser to remove all his tumors. After fully healing from surgery, Holly was ready for release. He was released on April 18th, just under 4 months of care back into the Ponce Inlet.

Sea Turtle Hospital


Released April 2019, Indian River Lagoon

Hartley was found floating in the Indian River Lagoon, unable to completely dive due to buoyancy issues and had a severe case of fibropapillomatosis (FP) tumors on both eyes, both front flippers, neck, shell and had a thin body condition. We removed the left eye and a veterinarian at Animal Eye Clinic removed the right eye tumor. Hartley was treated with antibiotics, fluid therapy, good nutrition and clean water and then began FP tumor removal surgery. After almost a year in care, Hartley was completely healed & released. Hartley was named in honor of W.D. Hartley Elementary School students who raised money to support the Hospital.

Sea Turtle Hospital


Released August 2018, River to Sea Preserve

Seafoam is a juvenile green sea turtle found stranded on Marineland Beach on February 23, 2018. The turtle was thin and covered with epibiota (organisms that live on turtles), including many marine leeches. Seafoam was very anemic, which was caused by the many leeches. Seafoam’s compromised immune system also meant that abscesses or infection had formed on the carapace (top shell). Seafoam also had fibropapillomatosis. Luckily, Seafoam had a very mild tumor load, and we were able to remove all of the tumors in one surgery. After months of healing, Seafoam (who was named by our fans on Facebook) returned home.

Sea Turtle Hospital


Released April 2019, Ponce Inlet

Holly stranded on Ponce Inlet in Volusia County during the Holiday Season, which lead him to be named Holly. Holly was a cold stun, suffering from a mild case of fibropapillomatosis (FP) tumors. After a month of antibiotics, good nutrition and clean water, we used a CO2 laser to remove all his tumors. After fully healing from surgery, Holly was ready for release. He was released on April 18th, just under 4 months of care back into the Ponce Inlet.

Sea Turtle Hospital


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:




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 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.



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


Sea Turtles Released in 2018


Treated, Injured or Ill Turtles in 2018


Sea Turtle Hospital Volunteers in 2018


The internship at The Sea Turtle Hospital at UF Whitney Laboratory 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.

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.

  • 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)
  • Currently enrolled in or graduated from college or university
  • Must be available to work from May 15 through August 15 (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 mid-summer 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 or The Sea Turtle Hospital @ Whitney Lab, Attn: Catherine Eastman 9505 N. Oceanshore Blvd, St Augustine, FL 32080.  Applications must be received by March 1, 2020 for the summer program.

Applicants will be notified through email if invited for the interview phase. Interviews are scheduled onsite or Skype 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 of $750 per month.



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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

Donation Information: Jessica Long, Senior Director of Advancement
904-201-8408 or

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


University of Florida News

University of Florida News

The Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab and a patient released from the hospital, Cisco Kid.

Read the Article
Nat Geo Wild

Nat Geo Wild

Nat Geo Wild was there to film the release of Sebod on September 21, 2016

Nat Geo Wild Site
First Coast News

First Coast News

Researching turtle tumors in Flagler could help human medicine

Watch the Video
First Coast News

Pelican Post Magazine

Featured in the Fall 2017 Issue.

Read the Article

Sea Turtle Grants Program

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