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Experts team up with veteran's organization, Force Blue, to research cancer-like disease in turtles

Posted: 10:29 PM, Aug 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-16 04:19:52-04
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A team of scientists from our area has joined forces with a group of veterans in an effort to learn more about sea turtles and a disease that is affecting so many of them.
 
Thursday night, Force Blue released a documentary on Facebook showcasing the research through this collaboration.
 
Experts from Loggerhead Marinelife Center , FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute , The Turtle Hospital and Inwater Research Group spent 10 days in Marathon in the Florida Keys working with the veterans from Force Blue .
 
 “It almost feels like they know they’re going through a crisis too,” Rudy Reyes, co-founder of Force Blue, said about the turtles in the documentary.
 
The disease they are studying is called Fibropaillomatosis or FP.
 
It’s a cancer-like disease that causes tumors to grow in the soft tissue of the turtles, often debilitating them.
 
“Once we started catching turtles we found that 50 to 70 percent of them had tumors. It intrigued me, but it pissed me off,” said Michael Bresette, President, and Co-Founder of Inwater Research Group.
 
Through research, the experts hope to learn more about what is causing the tumors, how widespread the disease is becoming, and eventually, they hope to be able to learn ways to prevent the disease from impacting the animals.
 
“The biggest hope was that the science was going to be impactful,” said Dr. Justin Perrault with Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
 
This research opportunity was a new venture of Perrault.
 
“I was humbled to be asked to be a part of this. It was a different experience working with a non-scientific group like Force Blue,” Perrault said. “All of the guys from Force Blue have PTSD and they use the ocean to soothe them.”
 
30 turtles were sampled and some treated during the research effort.
 
“Understanding sea turtle health in Florida can help us understand sea turtle health all over the world,” said Dr. Annie-Page Karjian with Harbor Branch.
 
The group is looking for more funding to do two more years of research.
 
You can watch the full documentary on the Force Blue Facebook page .