Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Georgia Sea Turtle Center Selects Founding Visionary As New Director

PRNewswire/ -- The Georgia Sea Turtle Center, located on historic Jekyll Island, Ga., has selected Dr. Terry M. Norton to be its new director. Dr. Norton, who assumed his new position effective September 5, has been integrally involved in planting and nurturing the idea for the center since 2001. He has been the director of veterinary services for the organization since it opened on June 16, 2007, and he will continue to serve in that capacity.

Dr. Norton comes with impressive credentials that include a Bachelor of Science degree from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Tufts University in Boston, and more than twenty years of experience working with zoos, aquaria, and free-ranging wildlife.

"Dr. Norton was an integral part of the early success of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center," said Jones Hooks, Executive Director, Jekyll Island Authority. "He helped create the shared vision that began this great work, and now we're thrilled that he will lead the Center into the future."

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) provides rehabilitation treatment for injured sea turtles and other wildlife; conducts research and professional training in wildlife medicine, husbandry, biology and education; and offers educational programs for the public.

Since the Georgia Sea Turtle Center opened, more than 110,000 visitors have toured the $3 million, 10,000-square-foot facility. A restored 1903 brick building that once supplied power to the famous Jekyll Island Club hotel houses an exhibit area, retail space, and state-of-the-art rooms dedicated to surgery, digital radiography (X-rays), and long-term treatment.

"It's an interactive educational environment," explained Dr. Norton. "Visitors to our center really get engaged. For example, our treatment room has a window so that visitors can actually watch us work on our patients, and we can discuss the particular animal's life history, medical problem, and treatment or surgery. A walkway through the rehabilitation area allows them to see the turtles we are nursing back to health, with the goal of releasing them back into the sea. Our center is the first of its kind in Georgia, and as far as I know, it's the only one in the country that comprehensively integrates rehabilitation, interactive education, professional training, and veterinary research."

An Emphasis on Education and Research

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center's rehabilitation work to protect and preserve sea turtles is just one important aspect of its mission. The center also conducts research and provides educational and awareness programs for the public.

In a twelve-month period approximately 5,000 students from close to 100 different schools and scout groups visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. In addition, the center takes its educational programs into numerous schools. At the same time, GSTC is conducting groundbreaking research to develop diets and nutritional supplements to promote sea turtle health and healing. This research could benefit aquaria and rehabilitation institutions all over the world.

Leading the Way for Others

"Our vision extends beyond our immediate region," said Dr. Norton. "We want our research, conservation, preservation, and educational activities to benefit organizations in other parts of the country and the world. We have already developed training programs for veterinarians and veterinary students from across the United States, the Caribbean, Panama, and other places."

In the spring of 2009, GSTC plans to host an International Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Workshop in partnership with many other institutions, including Ross University in St. Kitts; the Georgia Department of Natural Resources; St. Catherines Island Foundation; the Jekyll Island Authority and Foundation; the University of Florida and the University of Georgia Colleges of Veterinary Medicine; the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, Florida; the Marine Life Center in Melbourne, Florida; the Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key, Florida; and possibly others.

"My long-term vision is to expand the scope of our mission," said Dr. Norton. "In the future we'd like to develop health-related programs for a wider variety of native wildlife and promote ecosystem health locally and internationally, while at the same time increasing our efforts on behalf of turtles."

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