Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Assistant Research Professor & Clinical Veterinarian, Annie Page-Karjian, D.V.M., Ph.D., recently helped lead a team of marine scientists and combat veterans to study and save green sea turtles in the Florida Keys threatened by fibropapillomatosis, a disease characterized by skin, eye, and internal tumors that can be fatal.
Force Blue, a nonprofit organization that provides “mission therapy” for former combat divers participated in this vital work to help save the turtles and restore lives. “It’s empowering to help an animal, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to share this experience and our research with Force Blue veterans,” says Dr. Page-Karjian.
NBC News recently featured this study, which was conducted in partnership with FORCE BLUE, The Turtle Hospital, Loggerhead Marine Life Center, Inwater Research Group, and FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
Researchers conducted health assessments on 26 turtles during the 10-day study in the lower Florida Keys. Researchers took three of the green sea turtles suffering from severe fibropapillomatosis to The Turtle Hospital for rehabilitation.
Fibropapillomatosis was first reported in 1938 in a green turtle caught in the Florida Keys. This disease, linked to a herpes virus, can result in large tumors forming all over the body and impacts all species of sea turtles. Since that first report, the disease has grown to affect green sea turtle populations with global distribution. This population of green sea turtles in the lower Florida Keys has been relatively understudied and appears to have a high occurrence of fibropapillomatosis.
This long-term collaborative effort will help us understand more the health of this sea turtle population and disease prevalence.
Marine turtle research conducted under NMFS ESA Permit No. 21169, FWC MTP 125, and FAU IACUC approval of all animal-related activities.