LMC Rehab Holds the Triple Crown Title in Ocean Conservation
It’s a race against the clock to develop innovative therapies and procedures for marine life and our ecosystems. And our rehabilitation team has arrived not a moment too soon. This year, our leading team of rehab experts handily claimed the title as “triple crown champions” for ocean conservation while expanding as a global teaching hospital and welcoming new research projects and partnerships. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, our hospital team of staff and volunteers persevered in order to save sea turtles locally and globally and celebrate many rehabilitation highlights.
Global Teaching Hospital
As of this year, we now proudly serve as the flagship U.S. hospital for the recently founded Sea Turtle Rescue Alliance (STRA). The STRA is a global network of sea turtle rescue and conservation facilities supported by OceanCare, which seeks to advance sea turtle medicine, health and conservation through cloud-based collaboration, training and telemedicine. Our very own Associate Staff Veterinarian, Dr. Max Polyak, is one of the founding members of the international organization, joined by Dr. Claire Petros of the Olive Ridley Project (Maldives) and Dr. Alessandro Ponzo of The Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute (Philippines).
The STRA will provide global support by serving as an online platform to collect, house and disseminate specialized therapies and techniques regarding the treatment of these endangered species. As part of its global strategy, the rescue alliance will also serve as a 24/7 on-call veterinary resource for centers that are less equipped and generally have limited access to sea turtle specialists.
Additionally, we welcomed the most veterinary externs this year on campus, doubling the number of externs compared to years past. Central to our teaching mission, we were able to train fourth-year veterinary students in the unique aspects of sea turtle medicine and continue to serve as an educational resource for veterinarians, veterinary students and veterinary technicians.
New Research Projects & Collaborations
In 2020, new rehabilitation initiatives were launched such as our sea turtle microbiome project. This project in particular will describe the microbiome of wild and hospitalized sea turtles using a novel technique developed by our veterinarians. The goals of this undertaking are to characterize the gut microbiome to enhance therapy and ultimately increase the chances of patient success once released.
Other cutting-edge projects that gained momentum this year include advanced diagnostics to describe neurological disorders in sea turtles, as well as the clinical use of stem cells for therapy. The neurophysiology collaboration with veterinary neurologist Dr. Chrstine Senneca will help describe the neuromuscular activity of normal and abnormal sea turtles using electromyography and will be the largest initiative of its kind in these species. A second collaboration with world-renowned neurophysiologist Dr. Ivan Lang, will describe the basic neurophysiological mechanisms of gastrointestinal (GI) function to improve our ability to treat GI disorders. For our stem cell project, we have collected and successfully expanded the first stem cells for clinical use in sea turtle patients. These cells hold promise in treating a variety of diseases and injuries that did not have previous treatment options, including spinal cord trauma from boat strikes.
Community partnerships have also been a cornerstone of our efforts. We are grateful to our neighbors at Jupiter Medical Center and Dr. Lee Fox who continue to collaborate with our veterinarians to expand access to their advanced imaging modalities. In doing so, we are creating a large database of normal and abnormal sea turtle images using computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This partnership provides indispensable diagnostic value in treating our patients and contributes to our ability to train students and educate the public.
Where We Go in 2021
We’re going strong in the race but are still far out from the fishing line. For 2021, we invite you to be in the cheering section as we eventually get there! Thank you for your support in one of the most defining years to date and for marching with us in the year ahead.
Annual Fund. As we close on the year, we kindly ask that you tap into the giving spirit and donate a tax-deductible donation to our Annual Fund. With every dollar, you are helping us improve ocean water quality, reduce global marine pollution, and rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles. Thank you for helping us start off strong in 2021 and making the holiday season a bit bluer!
Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is a nonprofit sea turtle research, rehabilitation, and educational institution that promotes the conservation of ocean ecosystems with a focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The Center features an on-site hospital, research laboratory, educational exhibits, and aquariums, and also operates the Juno Beach Pier, which hosts world-class angling and sightseeing. Situated on one of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beaches, Loggerhead Marinelife Center is open daily and hosts over 350,000 guests free-of-charge each year. The Center’s conservation team works with 90 local and international organizations across six continents to form partnerships and share conservation initiatives and best practices that are core to its mission of ocean conservation. The Center is expanding and has launched its Waves of Progress capital expansion campaign, designed to accelerate and amplify LMC’s conservation and education impact. When complete, the facility will offer one of the world’s most advanced and unique experiences for guests and scientific partners. For more information, visit www.marinelife.org or call (561) 627-8280.