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I love it when people ask what we do at the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience. They're usually astounded when I tell them
how much we can learn about ourselves by studying simple sea creatures. Lobsters, sea slugs, horseshoe crabs and even the lowly jelly-
fish can teach us a great deal about our own biology.
Since its founding in 1974, the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, a research institute of the University of Florida, has earned
international acclaim for marine biomedical research in important fields such as vision, sense of smell, neurobiology, p "- --rl. .1..
developmental and vector biology. We are now embarking on an exciting new academic venture that will complement and enhance our
Marine animals, be they wild or in captivity, are increasingly vulnerable to disease. We can witness this through the many standings
of marine mammals and from the increasing burden and costs that disease places on marine farming. To address this growing problem,
the Whitney Laboratory is seeking to create The Center for Marine Animal Health. This will be a marine veterinary school that will con-
duct research into the biology of marine animals and their diseases, develop diagnostics and treatments for those diseases, and train
veterinarians and technicians to apply those treatments. The University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine and others around
the world can treat most diseases of domestic pets and farm animals. The goal of The Center for Marine Animal Health is to afford
marine animals the same level of care.
This program will build on the existing strengths of the Whitney Laboratory in the cell and molecular biology of marine animals, and
will gain the credibility needed for good marketing from our reputation in this area. At the same time, the marine animal health program
will highlight the importance of our existing marine biomedical programs and give them a very public face a win-win situation.
I invite you to join us in the campaign to create The Center for Marine Animal Health and to help make Florida Tomorrow a place
where marine animals can live disease free.
Peter Anderson, director
Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience
The Promise of Tomorrow
The University of Florida holds the promise of the future:
Florida Tomorrow a place, a belief, a day. Florida Tomorrow is
filled with possibilities. Florida Tomorrow is for dreamers and
doers, for optimists and pragmatists, for scholars and entrepre-
neurs, all of whom are nurtured at Florida's flagship university:
the University of Florida, the foundation of the Gator Nation.
What is Florida Tomorrow? Here at the Whitney Laboratory for
Marine Bioscience, we believe it's an opportunity, one filled with
promise and hope. It's that belief that feeds the university's capi-
tal campaign to raise more than $1 billion.
The Florida Tomorrow campaign will shape the .,i- ... -i-., cer-
tainly. But its ripple effect will also touch the state of Florida, the
nation and the entire world. Florida Tomorrow is pioneering research
and spirited academic programs. It's a fertile environment for
inquiry, teaching and learning. It's being at the forefront to address
the challenges facing all of us, both today and tomorrow.
Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience
Florida Tomorrow Campaign Goals
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Florida Tomorrow is a day
when whales and dolphins are no longer compelled to strand
themselves and die on the beach.
For Future Scientists
At first, the elementary schoolchildren who visit UF's Whitney
Lab are hesitant to approach the wriggling horseshoe crab in the
touch tank. But once a few children work up the nerve, the rest
dive right in.
It's that transformation from fear to curiosity that education
coordinator Jessica Roberts-Misterly says is the best part of her job.
"It's amazing to see these kids, who often haven't seen these
animals before, overcome their fear," she says. "They learn how
these animals survive, how they breathe, how they eat, what
adaptations they have for their environment. Our hope is that
knowing about these animals and having a positive experience
will, in the future, help them be more aware of the environment
and protect the places where these animals live."
In addition to raising environmental consciousness, the Whitney
Lab's education programs let kids do hands-on experiments to
show them that science is about more than textbooks.
"We want them to see that this is something fun and get them
thinking about a career in science," Roberts-Misterly says.
The lab's outreach efforts got a major boost in 2007, when
the 17,000-square-foot Center for Marine Studies opened on the
Whitney's eight-acre campus with labs, classrooms, conference
rooms and a 270-seat auditorium. In addition to the grade-school
Day at the Whitney programs, the center houses middle- and
high-school classes, public lectures and research programs for
undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students. Ideally sit-
uated on a peninsula in the Intracoastal Waterway, the Whitney
offers a limitless supply of pure seawater critical to keeping
research animals healthy and a wealth of specimens available
for collection right outside the lab's door.
Modeling the Whitney after the famed Woods Hole Marine
Biological Laboratory, director Peter Anderson hopes to expand
the lab's educational offerings to the international level, attract-
ing eminent scientists from around the world to work on their
research and teach graduate courses and summer seminars.
From opening young minds to the possibilities of science to fos-
tering research on the cutting edge of marine science, the Center
for Marine Studies is bringing the Whitney Lab one step closer to
becoming the Woods Hole of the South.
Florida Tomorrow is a place ...
where the world's seafood supply is plentiful and always safe for
Clues in Unlikely Places
The spotted, slimy creature curled around Peter Anderson's
hand doesn't look like a medical marvel, but this lowly sea slug
could hold the key to diseases from Parkinson's to Alzheimer's.
"The molecules implicated in Alzheimer's are present in sea
slugs," says Anderson, director of the University of Florida's
Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience. "What we're trying
to determine is, 'How does it learn?' 'How does it forget?' And,
'What are the genes being turned on and off when that occurs?'"
The sea slug is one of the marine animals that researchers at
the Whitney Lab study to gain insight into human neurology.
Research like the sea slug genome study, conducted by Dr. Leonid
Moroz, may translate to improved understanding of the human
brain. More so than the lab rats most people associate with med-
ical research, marine animals' simplified neurological systems
make them good models for neurological studies.
"A jellyfish nervous system works the same way ours does,
by-and-large, it's just a lot simpler," Anderson says. "It's kind
Marine animals' nerve cells are also easier to locate. The sea
slug's nerve cells are up to a millimeter in diameter and can be
seen with the naked eye, making it much easier for scientists to
pinpoint the cell they want to study.
"I liken it to the difference between a barrel of M&Ms and a box
of chocolates. Marine animals are like the box of chocolates it's
easy to find the particular nerve cell you want to work with. With
mammals the M&Ms all of the nerve cells in an area look
exactly the same. You can't go back to the same one day after day."
Other biomedical projects under way at Whitney include Dr.
Dirk Bucher's study of the neural circuits that control rhythmic,
repetitive motions like walking, which could eventually help
patients healing from spinal cord injuries, and Barbara-Anne
Battelle's investigation of horseshoe crab retinas, which could
lead to advances in treatment for patients with low vision.
"These studies epitomize what we're about," Anderson says.
"We're here to take advantage of the opportunities these animals
have to offer."
Florida Tomorrow is a belief ...
that saving our marine environment is a necessary means to
saving ourselves and the planet.
To Answer Questions
From tourist attractions to aquaculture farms, the need for
marine-animal veterinarians has skyrocketed, and UF's Whitney
Laboratory for Marine Bioscience is poised to fill that need.
With the planned introduction of the world's first dedicated
marine animal veterinarian program, an offshoot of the lab's
biotechnology research, UF stands to become the leader in this
"Understanding disease in marine animals requires exper-
tise in their cell and molecular -.;.. i.. says lab director Peter
Anderson. "This is our bread and butter. Our reputation for solid
science in this area will form the foundation of the program and
give it credibility."
The Whitney Lab plans to capitalize on this expertise by train-
ing vet students to care for marine animals, not only those in
captivity or aquaculture operations but also wild animals that
become stranded or beached.
"The need is significant," Anderson says. "There's a big knowl-
edge gap when animals become stranded many of them have
to be euthanized because they can't be treated."
In the aquaculture industry, disease has a marked economic
impact. The Chinese shrimp industry loses $1 billion a year to dis-
ease, Anderson says, "and of course, those costs are passed on to
UF's Center for Marine Animal Health would be a groundbreak-
ing facility, and Anderson believes the Whitney Lab is uniquely
suited to the task. Its neighbor across the street is the Marineland
attraction and dolphin conservation center, where students could
gain experience with marine mammals. The lab's location on the
Intracoastal Waterway south of St. Augustine is another strong
point. Pipes buried under the sand of the Atlantic Ocean, just
a stone's throw from Whitney, provide a boundless source of
fresh seawater for holding tanks. And the lab's existing partner-
ships with the main campus' College of Veterinary Medicine and
the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences would be key
resources in crafting the curriculum, Anderson says.
The future of The Center for Marine Animal Health hinges on
funding for new buildings, but Anderson hopes to see the center
come to fruition within five years.
"There's a huge need for this," he says. "The pieces are all
The Whitney Laboratory for Marine
Bioscience is a research facility that cap-
italizes on the experimental advantages
of marine animals to address ques-
tions in human healthcare. For instance,
researchers use sea slugs to study the
genes involved in learning and memory,
spiny lobsters to study the sense of smell
and fish to study neuromuscular disor-
ders. The National Institutes of Health
and the National Science Foundation fund
research at the Whitney Lab, which is rec-
ognized as one of the premier marine
biomedical research facilities in the world.
Plans are under way to create The
Center for Marine Animal Health at the
Whitney Lab. This program will be one of
the first marine vet schools in the world,
and will address the critical need for
research into the diseases of marine ani-
mals, effective diagnoses, development of
environmentally safe treatments and the
training of veterinarians and technicians
to apply those technologies. Such a pro-
gram is desperately needed to meet the
needs of the marine aquaculture indus-
try and the health of wild marine animals.
According to a World Bank report, global
losses to shrimp diseases alone total $3
billion annually, a cost that is ultimately
transferred to the seafood industry and
restaurants. The growing incidence of dis-
ease in wild marine species only adds to
these losses and threatens supply.
In this country, there is a growing
demand for domestically produced aqua-
culture products. Aquaculture in the
United States has increased exponentially
in recent decades and will continue to grow. Currently, U.S. aqua-
culture accounts for about 10 percent of the seafood Americans
consume. According to Florida's Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services, aquaculture is the state's most diverse agri-
business. In fact, the greatest variety of aquatic species in the
nation is raised by Florida's 900-plus aquaculturists. Florida
ranked third in aquaculture sales in 2005, an industry that claimed
over $1.09 billion in transactions that year.
Marine life is considered by many to be the primary source
of food protein for the future. The health of that life, and subse-
quently ours, is dependent on our learning to identify, diagnose
and treat ill health, and our ability to train others to do it. The
Whitney Lab's Center for Marine Animal Health will play a
major role in supporting and ensuring the health of marine ani-
mals, whether for the food they provide or simply to extend
their contributions to the planet.
The lab is ideally positioned to take the
leadership in this initiative:
I. It is an international leader in the cell and molecular biology
of marine animals, which will form a foundation for research
into the diseases of marine animals, affording the CMAH strong
2. The program will be enhanced through its ties to other com-
ponents of the University of Florida, most notably the College of
Veterinary Medicine, the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic
Sciences and the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research.
3. The laboratory's exceptional seawater system will facilitate nec-
essary marine animal husbandry.
4. Our close association with the Marineland attraction will pro-
vide an array of rare opportunities to work with marine animals.
The lab's Center for Marine Studies provides classrooms, teaching
labs, conference space and an auditorium required for training
components of the program.
As a pioneering entity, The Center for Marine
Animal Health will develop research that is
sought worldwide. It will:
P Move the University of Florida to the forefront of marine veter-
inary research, education and clinical practice;
P Help ensure the health and proliferation of captive marine ani-
mals living in large aquariums, zoos and tourist attractions, such
m Safeguard the health of wild sea animals and, hence, the oceans
in which they live;
P Provide much needed marine veterinarians and technicians to
identify, diagnose and treat disease in marine animals captive
or wild; and
P Secure and safeguard a primary food source for the world.
P Bolster the state's agribusiness and economy;
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