- January 21, 2016
The Sea Turtle Hospital at the University of Florida's Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience received a donation of $6,870 Oct. 31 for turtle food, medications and other supplies, and is also seeking to raise much more for a planned expansion.
Kerry Mitruska, director of sales and marketing of Hammock Beach Resort, and David Ayres, general manager of Flagler Radio, presented the donation. It had been fundraised through the "Taste of the Fun Coast" event that took place Oct. 29 at the Hammock Beach Resort, where local vendors and supporters combined efforts to support the Sea Turtle Hospital.
The $6,870 will go directly toward essential supplies, according to Catherine Eastman, the hospital's Sea Turtle program manager.
Meanwhile, the Sea Turtle Hospital is also seeking donations and grants for major facility upgrades.
The Sea Turtle Hospital opened four years ago on the border of Flagler County and St. Johns County to provide rehabilitation, education, and research for sea turtle conservation in Northeast Florida, according to the Whitney Laboratory's website.
Since its opening in 2015, it has treated and released 35 turtles, educated more than 5,000 youth locally, and given tours to approximately 1,000 people.
Sea turtles wash onto Florida's beaches for a variety of reasons, including boat strikes, cold-stunning, swallowing fishing hooks, exhaustion from entanglement with commercial fishing gear, illness from tumors related to fibropapilloma syndrome, and other diseases.
Volunteers make up a big part of the operation and success of the hospital, Eastman said. There are 24 regular volunteers who assist with food prep, feeding, water testing, and tank cleaning, plus dozens of people who check on nests, struggling baby turtles, and injured or sick turtles that have washed onshore.
Jessica Long, senior director of advancement for the Whitney Laboratory, is working on a multimillion-dollar project to expand the Sea Turtle Hospital.
The goal is to expand public education about conservation. A proposed $24 million building would contain a more public hospital, with a new lab that would house 12 research teams.
About half of the money has been raised, and the hospital is seeking state support for the rest.
"The building will be an instrument of teaching and training new scientists, and have more equipment to help science move forward," Long said.
The expansion timeline, she explained, involves finishing renderings for the building this year and raising another $2 million from local donors. Construction would start within the next two years. Long invited community members to write letters to local representatives or senators in support of the Whitney Lab's work.