Sea Turtle Hospital

Tater Tot

Released May 2018, River to Sea Preserve

Tater Tot is a juvenile green sea turtle that stranded on Vilano Beach on January 20, 2018. This little turtle was cold upon arrival and needed to be slowly warmed back up. He/she also had small fibropapillomatosis tumors. Fortunately we were able to get this animal healthy quickly and after a couple of minor tumor removal surgeries, he/she returned home.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Mean Joe Green

Released July 2017, Crescent Beach

Mean Joe Green stranded on Crescent Beach on 2/6/16. Joe was cold stunned and suffering from fibropapillomatosis (FP). We treated him with fluids and antibiotics and warmed him back up slowly. We used our CO2 laser to remove all of Joe’s FP tumors. While Joe had a very small load of tumors and we were able to remove them all in one surgery, he had a lot of re-growth. During his year and a half stay with us, Joe underwent a total of six tumor removal procedures. Mean Joe Green is a play on the name Mean Joe Greene as the donor who named Joe is a Steelers fan and a fan of green sea turtles, like Joe!

Sea Turtle Hospital

Tamotoa

Released July 2017, Crescent Beach

Tamatoa was found in Salt Run at Anastasia State Park on 4/17/17, observed by fishermen in the shallows, and state park employees were notified because the turtle had "bumps" on it. Upon arrival, the turtle was in very good body condition with no serious health issues. The bumps were FP, but there were very few tumors and none a hindrance. Green sea turtles typically have beautifully patterned shells, but this turtle was especially pretty. The turtle was named Tamatoa, after the crab in "Moana," because he was so shiny.

Sea Turtle Hospital

Tater Tot

Released May 2018, River to Sea Preserve

Tater Tot is a juvenile green sea turtle that stranded on Vilano Beach on January 20, 2018. This little turtle was cold upon arrival and needed to be slowly warmed back up. He/she also had small fibropapillomatosis tumors. Fortunately we were able to get this animal healthy quickly and after a couple of minor tumor removal surgeries, he/she returned home.

Sea Turtle Hospital

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 2017

47

Treated, Injured or Ill Turtles in 2017

24

Sea Turtle Hospital Volunteers in 2017


WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

INTERNSHIP OPENING - Sea Turtle Rehabilitation/Education Internship

Deadline: Summer Semester - April 1

Animal Care Responsibilities: Depending on need and case load, interns will assist with the care of sea turtles in rehab. Animal Care duties will include animal restraint; cleaning; disinfecting tanks, equipment, and environmental enrichment devices; diet preparation; administering diets; record keeping; facility maintenance; and water quality testing. Interns will also assist animal care staff with medical procedures, admission exams, animal necropsies, and release events.
Education Responsibilities: Interns will assist with environmental education programs, including on-site programs, off-site programs, fairs, and festivals. Interns will assist in giving public presentations to guests and educate them on marine turtles and conservation. Interns will assist with various office projects, and help create lesson plans and activities that are aligned with the Sea Turtle Summer Camp.

Other Responsibilities: At the end of the internship, the intern will present feedback regarding their internship to the staff. Interns will also be assigned a seasonal project to complete by the end of their internship.

Positions are unpaid. Interns must have their own transportation. Housing is available for a small fee, which interns are responsible for.

Qualifications

  • The internship is open to students who are currently enrolled in, or recently graduated from college or university.
  • Preference will be given to students or recent graduates working towards biology, environmental studies, marine science, education, or other related fields.
  • Intern 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.
  • Summer interns should be available to work from May 15 through August 15, 2018.
  • Interns should expect to work 40 hours per week which will include early morning and/or late night.
  • 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 Oceanshore Blvd, St Augustine, FL 32080. Applications must be received by April 1st for the summer of 2018 program.


 

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Volunteer

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Contact Us

Meet Our Team: Sea Turtle Hospital Staff

More Information: Catherine Eastman, Sea Turtle Program Coordinator
904-461-4028 or cbeastman@whitney.ufl.edu

Donation Information: Jessica Long, Director of Development
904-461-4018 or jessicalong@whitney.ufl.edu

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


IN THE NEWS

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.