Meet Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Turtle Team

Women lead the charge rehabilitating sea turtles at Loggerhead Marinelife Center

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Tori Hample cares for a turtle. Courtesy of Loggerhead
Tori Hample cares for a turtle. Courtesy of Loggerhead

When an injured sea turtle is lucky enough to find its way to Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, the medical team stands ready to bring it back to good health. These creatures are fortunate to be in the caring hands of a skilled, all-female veterinary team led by chief science officer and veterinarian Dr. Heather Barron. 

Barron arrived at Loggerhead in 2022 and set about recruiting her team, hand-selecting the four talented women who, along with herself, make up the rehab staff. Each team member—Marika Weber, Amy Kowalski, Jamie Pescatore, and Tori Hample—brings a wealth of experience in sea turtle biology, research, and medical care. “We have been very lucky to get some of the best people in our field,” Barron says of her colleagues. 

Hample prepares to release a recovered sea turtle into the ocean. Courtesy of Loggerhead
Hample prepares to release a recovered sea turtle into the ocean. Courtesy of Loggerhead

A typical day begins with patient rounds, walking by each tank and discussing each patient’s progress and needs. Any necessary surgeries and other treatments are done early in the day, while afternoons are devoted to rechecks and admitting new patients. The team is responsible for not just sea turtles but all of the wild animals that come into the hospital— including other species of turtles as well as sea birds, which are “quickly shifted to Busch Wildlife when they are stable enough to travel,” says Barron. Aside from rehabbing the injured animals, adds Barron, her team’s mission is to “look at the conservation of our oceans through the lens of sea turtle health.”

Dr. Heather Barron (center), Jamie Pescatore (left), and Dr. Shelby Loos of Gumbo Limbo (right) ready a turtle for an MRI scan. Courtesy of Loggerhead
Dr. Heather Barron (center), Jamie Pescatore (left), and Dr. Shelby Loos of Gumbo Limbo (right) ready a turtle for an MRI scan. Courtesy of Loggerhead

Dr. Barron, who graduated from the University of Georgia in 1995, says the veterinary space has changed a lot over the years, with many more women entering the field than in her days as a student. “When I was in school, it was predominantly male students, but that’s not the case any longer—now it is probably 86 percent female,” she estimates.

She continues: “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’m just as excited to go to work now as I was my first year out of school. It is a very rewarding career.”

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