April 2020 Newsletter: Happenings at LMC during COVID

CEO Chatter with Jack E. Lighton

Jack Lighton

Dear Friend of LMC, 

We hope and yours are safely hunkered down and well.  As we navigate through this unique time in our world’s history together, your support means the world to us.

On March 16th we temporarily closed our campus to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Although our campus is temporarily closed to the public, our Center’s essential work never stops. Currently, our team is working in very small pods on campus and implementing best practices in health safety protocols to conduct our lifesaving work.  Our hospital team of staff and volunteers continues to provide around the clock care to our patients and we are responding to calls to rescue new sick or injured patients like Brody, a new loggerhead sea turtle patient who had ingested 12 ft of monofilament line.

Our Center is situated on one of the world’s most densely nested sea turtle nesting beaches, and our researchers are working around the clock to mark, monitor, and protect sea turtles nests as nesting season moves towards its peak (June / July).   

Education and conservation are core to LMC’s ethos and while we are sad that at this time we are unable to welcome our beloved guests and students, we are happy to offer our education portfolio to the world allowing us to continue making Waves of Progress. Our dedicated staff of educators worked around the clock to create and launch LMC’s Virtual Coastal Classroom (VCC).  The VCC portfolio has welcomed nearly 100,000 guests and students with live daily STEM infused episodes that are curriculum aligned, have lesson plans, at home tests, and at home activities.  

As individuals and students go virtual through our shelter-in-place, LMC became a founding member of the Virtual STEM Collaborative, a network of beloved Palm Beach County based organizations who are committed to networking our learning portfolios and making them available to the world when we need it most.  Members of this Collaborative include: Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Scripps Research Institute South Florida Science Center & Aquarium Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Brain Institute Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience Manatee Lagoon – An FPL Eco-Discovery Center.

Our passionate team members continue to work on research projects, develop new educational resources, and generate more awareness. This month, our team reconfigured our Earth Day celebrations to take place virtually. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we’ve launched a #30DaysToZero social media campaign to encourage individuals to opt for sustainable alternatives and habits and by providing guests with the opportunity to enter in a “Sea Turtle Patient Naming Contest.” For more information on our Earth Day celebrations, please see the Earth Day section of our e-newsletter. 

Since we are closed we are unable to accept door-donations and our store, a vital financial engine to our center closed to in-person guests.  As such we have amplified our eStore so folks can shop online and we have created LMC’s Disaster Relief Fund, a fund designed to help the Center pay for the essential operations during this closure to the public.  All gifts to this fund are 100% tax deductible: Donate

Today, I want to share with you a number of important updates: 


  • As of today, April 3, we are caring for 19 sea turtle patients.  
  • Our hospital and volunteer teams are working in small pods to ensure proper social distancing and redundancy. 
  • We were excited to release Jane at the end of March 
  • We are very excited to report excellent progress for our patients, like Annie Beau.
    • Annie Beau looks to be progressing nicely from a very serious intestinal blockage. We used a novel surgical procedure called an enterocentesis that likely saved her life!
  • Established a clinical research collaboration with Dr. Ivan Lang from the Medical College of Wisconsin and Dr. Tom Kodadek from Scripps Research Institute (and an LMC Board Member) to begin groundbreaking studies in sea turtle gastrointestinal physiology.
  • After many months of work, performed the very first working validations of a test which will lead to describing sea turtle blood types, with the generous support of Alvedia (France).

Research Laboratory:

  • Our team continues to conduct our daily research nesting surveys, and as of today, April 3, we have marked and are continuing to monitor 33 sea turtle nests on our 9.5 mile beach.  
  • Our research team adhered a tracker to Jane and will continue to monitor Jane’s migration habits. 
  • Last week, we began our nighttime surveys for nesting sea turtle tagging and research projects. This year marks the 20th year of our annual monitoring for leatherback sea turtle nesting on our local beaches.
  • Our first encountered leatherback turtle this season is named “Mola.” She has been nesting on our beaches since 2003 and we have seen her close to a dozen times since she was first tagged.
  • We are also on the lookout for early season nesting loggerheads, as we have satellite tagging projects planned to determine how many nests these turtles lay in one season on our beaches.
  • We launched another research publication this week dealing with the impacts of a commonly used pesticide to control fire ant predation on sea turtle nests and hatchlings. This study was sponsored by the Sea Turtle License Plate Grants Program.


  • We are very proud of our innovative educators! LMC’s Virtual Coastal Classroom (VCC) has already filmed 16 episodes and we will soon welcome over 100,000 guests and students to our innovative STEM-infused educational opportunities.
  • We are working with The School District of Palm Beach County to amplify the availability of our VCC across the district
  • We are collaborating with FAU Brain Institute, Scripps, Max Planck, South Florida Science Center and other leaders in STEM education in Palm Beach County to share virtual resources for teachers and students. 

Retail Operations: 

  • As we are closed to guests, we are using this as an opportunity to pull our Retail Construction project ahead, with a goal of building our new retail space, pulling down our current wall and trying to push forward the project to unify these spaces while guests are not on our campus.
  • In addition we are rapidly uploading new items to our online store, including “Sea Turtle Care Packages” to send to loved ones. Help support our unique mission by sending a slice of sea turtle infused shine via unique and mission aligned gifts from our eStore!


  • We are very thankful for some of the amazing media reach we have been able to garner with our  VCC program and patient stories. From People Magazine to ‘hits’ from across the globe, LMC is receiving visibility during our closure to the public.
  • We are adding more videos to our social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter), especially YouTube.
  • We’ve launched our #30DaysToZero Earth Month Challenge social media campaign. 


  • We are conducting weekly underwater pier cleanups at the Juno Beach Pier. During the last two underwater cleanups, our team has rescued a crab entangled in a braided line. 
  • We continue to sample water from our coastal ecosystems  for our ongoing FWC red tide monitoring project. 
  • We’ve launched our #30DaysToZero social media campaign to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. All month long, our Conservation team will work with our Marketing team to post blogs, videos and social media regarding sustainable practices and our conservation efforts. 

Operations & Construction:

  • Our operations team has been hard at work maintaining and where possible improving upon our campus. From managing our aquariums and campus sanitation to ensuring our continuous hospital water system remains sound, it is never a dull moment for the LMC operations team.  


  • We have established an emergency assistance fund for folks who want to donate to LMC at this time.
  • We are working closely with our foundation partners and applying for new grants as they are identified. 
  • We are keeping in close touch with our donors, elected officials, and community partners keeping everyone informed of our continued operational advancements during our temporary closure to the public.

Day by day we continue to make progress…

We know the world is in a very fluid state as we navigate this pandemic together.  Our hearts are with those who have been impacted by this virus. It is with a deep sense of gratitude that we recognize all of those individuals, who are on the front line, essential workers who are keeping us safe and keeping our nation going.  We are deeply grateful for our team of staff, volunteers, and supporters that are keeping LMC’s mission going. As of today, April 3rd, we anticipate remaining closed to the public until the end of April and will be in consultation with local, State, and Federal guidelines to modify this date as necessary.

In the meantime, we plan to continue to bring our guests, unrestricted educational resources and engaging activities through online platforms.  Please help ‘share’ these resources with your networks so we can reach more individuals and inspire them to take better care of our beautiful blue planet. We will continue to protect and monitor our vital sea turtle nesting habitat and rescue new patients needing treatment and we will share all of these milestones with you.

Although we do not know when the crisis will end, we know it will end – and hope that it ends soon. During a disconnected and uncertain time, we are grateful for our connectivity with you and we are humbled to have your support.  We wish you and yours safety and health.

With Gratitude,
Jack E. Lighton
President & CEO

What’s New in Rehab?

The ingested monofilament line that Brody passed at Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

The hospital at LMC continues to work around-the-clock amid COVID-19 to care for its sick and injured sea turtles. The hospital staff has separated into two teams, with each team rotating shifts, to ensure that our patients receive exceptional and uninterrupted care during these uncertain times. While working in smaller teams, we are following appropriate distancing guidelines so that no person is at risk. Our volunteers have also been unwavering in supporting our mission by helping with daily patient care.  

The staff is not only maintaining the proper care of our patients but is continuing to respond to stranded turtles on the beaches and in waterways. Recently, an adult male loggerhead named Brody was admitted to the hospital with a buoyancy disorder. Brody was found floating offshore of Fort Pierce entangled in fishing line and radiographs would later reveal he ingested a thick monofilament line. The fishing line was initially wrapped around his neck and cut into the skin. The line around his neck was removed upon arrival and wounds were remedied with topical treatments. The ingested fishing line needed to be passed by Brody so as not to cause further internal damage. After issuing a proper diet and several medications five days after arrival, Brody passed more than 14 feet of fishing line! Brody has a long road ahead and will continue to receive treatment for his buoyancy disorder and neck wounds, but it marks a great start to his recovery. Make sure to follow Brody’s progress at marinelife.org/brody.

Nesting Season Update

Although most of the world has been put on pause, our researchers continue to protect our local nesting sea turtle population to advance conservation measures. Inspired by the resilient nature of sea turtles, LMC pushes forward to ensure our nesting mothers are in caring and innovative hands. Long days and nights await our research team, but their dedication to helping restore hope for these animals motivates us. Monitoring one of the most densely populated sea turtle nesting beaches in the world means that our researchers’ data and studies can help change the trajectory for threatened and endangered species. As the sea turtle nesting season progresses, our morning and night survey teams will keep the public informed through two weekly blog posts. Ride along with us at marinelife.org/research-surveys.

Underwater Cleanup at the Juno Beach Pier

Photo Courtesy of Sam Farkas
Photo Courtesy of Sam Farkas

This month, LMC’s Conservation Department held two underwater cleanups at the Juno Beach Pier! During the first cleanup, two divers removed more than 21 lbs of debris in 60 minutes, which consisting mostly of fishing line. The second cleanup, two divers removed 17.4 lbs of debris in 90 minutes, which amassed a bulk of fishing line, too. Each pound of the removed fishing line reduces the threat of entanglement to sea turtles and other marine life that could result in flipper amputation, strangulation or drowning. On both dives, divers were able to free a stone crab that was entangled under the pier.

A HUGE thank you to Jupiter Dive Center for their support and supplies donation! Normally, Jupiter Dive Center provides supplies and divers to assist with the cleanup.

50th Anniversary of Earth Day

Wednesday, April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! In honor of this milestone, we are celebrating Earth Month! Join us by participating in our 30-day challenge. Together we can work toward a greener and more sustainable world. Keep up with the challenge of the day on our social channels! Share with your networks how you are going #30daystozero

Volunteer Spotlight

This month, we are pleased to recognize Eric Lobbins as our Volunteer of the Month. Eric has been a valuable asset to our volunteer community this past winter serving in both the Operations Department and Sea Turtle Rehab. He has confidently stepped into big roles and welcomed the challenges that come with these tough, active and innovative positions. His passion for ocean conservation and dedication to helping LMC navigate challenges is very much appreciated as are his weekly, insightful articles on science-related topics. Thank you, Eric, for all you do for LMC!

Virtual Coastal Classroom

Although our campus is physically closed to the public, our Center always strives to provide unrestricted education and access to our mission to all guests. In light of our temporary closure, we are moving a few of our programs online. These virtual programs will help keep our next generation of eco-advocates focused and engaged with sea turtle and ocean conservation. During this unprecedented time, our educators are working around-the-clock to bring you and your family exceptional virtual learning modules. We have also enhanced our Educator Portal to help you make the most of your time at home with your loved ones.

Our education team invites curious ocean explorers to join them for our Virtual Coastal Classroom programming. Monday through Friday at 2 p.m. EST, our education team will be conducting 15-20 minute Facebook Live lessons focused on various sea turtle and ocean conservation topics. These virtual learning modules will leverage our innovative sea turtle hospital and engage viewers with our sea turtle patients. To accompany the live virtual lessons, our education team has designed a Virtual Coastal Classroom online resource website, which offers activity sheets and interactive quizzes to encourage viewers to build upon their knowledge at-home.

Can’t get enough virtual STEM? We’ve partnered with our education friends to gather local resources in one place. Learn more!

Mascot Corner: Kids’ Fun Zone!

Hello friends,

Fletch here – the lovable and huggable Loggerhead Marinelife Center mascot. If your kids are looking for some fun educational activities, check out my “Kids Fun Zone.” The Fun Zone has over 50 activity pages, coloring pages and crafts to supplement their education

When you finish coloring one of the pages, send a copy of the picture to fletch@marinelife.org. I would love to see your picture, and who knows, I could post it to the “Kids Fun Zone” web page! Have fun in the Zone and don’t forget to wash your hands often.

Send a Care Package

Send a friend, or loved one, a little slice of sea turtle-infused sunshine by shopping on our online store or adopting a sea turtle for them. Your support through these opportunities helps us raise funds to keep our lifesaving sea turtle hospital running while our campus is closed to the public.

Adopt a Sea Turtle

During this time of social distancing, check-in on a friend remotely by sending them an online sea turtle adoption!

Get Involved

Join LMC’s Blue Friends Society – have fun and meet like-minded friends!
The Blue Friends Society of Loggerhead Marinelife Center is an active social group of ocean conservation enthusiasts and LMC supporters who network, educate, plan and promote conservation. Become a member of this dynamic networking social group of ocean conservationists! The Blue Friends Society hosts parties, networking gatherings, beach cleanups and enjoys the beautiful outdoors! Learn more at marinelife.org/bluefriends.

Become a Member
Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Annual Fund offers our donors the opportunity to make tax-deductible donations to the Center while enjoying additional and exciting benefits. A tax-deductible donation to the Annual Fund supports the operations at Loggerhead Marinelife Center and its greatest needs. Your contribution helps promote conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. Additionally, your contribution will enhance all the benefits that you received upon joining. Learn more at marinelife.org/member.

Brick Pavers

Purchase a brick paver to be placed in the walkway of our new Outdoor Sea Turtle Hospital during campus expansion. The bricks can be engraved with a brief message and turtle logo. Brick designs are 8X4 with a 60 character limit, including spaces for $250 (36 characters if including a logo). 8X8 brick designs are $450 with a 120 character limit, including spaces (80 characters if including a logo).

Thank You to Our Outstanding Supporters!