The Georgia Sea Turtle Center: Native Chelonian Rehabilitation, Education and Research
Terry M. Norton, DVM, DACZM
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) officially opened on June 16, 2007 and has already experienced noteworthy accomplishments. The Exhibit Gallery houses custom-made, interactive exhibits featuring the life history of sea turtles and the threats they encounter, a window that allows the public to view the treatment room and an elevated walkway in the center of the rehabilitation pavilion which allows the staff to engage the general public by giving them a close-up, personal view of the rehabilitation process. The hospital contains digital radiography, flexible and rigid endoscopy, ultrasound, a surgical suite, a treatment room, and equipment to conduct numerous diagnostic tests onsite. Advanced imaging modalities are available locally. The GSTC staff oversees the nest monitoring and saturation tagging program for loggerhead sea turtles nesting on Jekyll Island. Investigations on free-ranging and stranded loggerhead nutritional health have led to utilization of the gathered information to develop a sea turtle vitamin supplement and formula for tube-feeding debilitated loggerheads. The GSTC is leading a cooperative effort to standardizing an approach to handling sea turtle mortality events in the southeastern U.S. The staff has been involved in several international training workshops in the Caribbean and Panama. The GSTC has partnered with Ross University, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), and others in the development and ongoing efforts of the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network. The GSTC has evolved into working with all native chelonians that occur in Georgia in its rehabilitation, education, and research programs.