Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory

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Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory, Inc
PredecessorGulf Specimen Marine Company, Panacea Institute of Marine Science
FounderJack and Anne Rudloe
  • Panacea, Florida
Managing director
Jack Rudloe
Executive director
Cypress Rudloe
Office manager
Debbi Clifford
David Frisby, Andrea Carter, Robert Seidler, Jack Rudloe, Cypress Rudloe
External video
Jack and Cypress Rudloe with the Sea Mobile
video icon Gulf Specimen Sea Turtle Release of "Spot" Rehabilitated Kemp's Ridley
video icon WFSU Demensions Allie the Sea Turtle Release

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory (GSML) is an independent not-for-profit marine research and education organization and public aquarium in Panacea, Florida, United States.


The laboratory has its origins in Gulf Specimen Marine Company, which was founded by writer and naturalist Jack Rudloe in 1963 as a marine specimen company primarily supplying scientists. John Steinbeck was an important mentor to the company.[1] The present location in Panacea, Florida, was purchased in 1964. In 1971 Rudloe married marine biologist Anne Eidemiller; Anne Rudloe founded the Panacea Institute of Marine Science in 1980.[2] In 1980 this became a registered non-profit as Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories, Inc., with Jack and Anne Rudloe as cofounders.[3]

In 2010 Jack and Anne's son Cypress Rudloe took over as general manager.[4] In 2012, Richard Gordon joined as emeritus scientist. In December 2014 the aquarium suffered a major setback when the aging ozonator donated to GSML two decades before by Valdosta State University stopped working. The aquarium launched a social media campaign and by March 2015 had raised over $70,000 to purchase the new equipment and to rebuild and upgrade the associated water purification system.[5][6] The new water purification system, donated at cost by Xylem Inc. came on line June 2015.[7][8] Hurricane Hermine made landfall near the laboratory September 2, 2016 causing damage to the lab itself as well as severe damage to the famous dock that was subject of the book The Living Dock, by Jack Rudloe.[9] The dock was rebuilt after a third social media campaign.[10] On October 10, 2018, storm surge from Hurricane Michael severely damaged the Living Dock. Storm surge entered the main floor and grounds of the facility, especially one of two sump systems, but damage was otherwise minimal, especially compared to other areas hit by the hurricane and the laboratory reopened the following week. Total damage has been estimated at $200,000 and repairs are ongoing.[11][12] GSML was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with revenues dropping to 10% of normal. The lab continued with virtual visits and Facebook tours but suffered a severe financial blow before reopening to the public when restrictions eased.[13]

In July 2020 Volunteer Florida, awarded GSML a $485,000 grant to build a 2,000-square-foot classroom complex along with a new parking lot. GSML also acquired six lots adjacent to the original site with a land donation from Gene and Nancy Phipps of the Tallahassee Phipps Foundation to house the building and parking lot. The new Anne Rudloe Memorial Education Center will be dedicated to the memory of Anne Rudloe and will be offering new aquaculture classes to local seafood cooking tutorials, and further its mission of educating the community on marine life.[14] In 2021 the Governing Board for the Northwest Florida Water Management District posthumously named Anne Rudloe the 2020 winner of the River and Bay Champion award. “Anne Rudloe’s passion for conservation and education throughout her career earned her national recognition,” said George Roberts, the Chairman of the District’s Governing Board. “But her biggest impact may be found in the thousands and thousands of children who learned about marine biology from touring the Marine Lab she founded in Panacea. No doubt, there will be scientists of tomorrow who discovered their own passion for learning thanks to Anne Rudloe’s work.”[15]


In addition to providing specimens for other scientists, GSML publishes both peer-reviewed scientific works and popular articles, and is involved in environmental activism, particularly in regards to coastal wetlands preservation. GSML also rescues and rehabilitates marine organisms, especially sea turtles. In 1990 the Gulf Specimen Marine Aquarium opened to the public; it has over 20,000 visitors annually.[4][16] Norman Griggs DVM of Shepherd Spring Animal Hospital is the GSML veterinarian. He provides sea turtle care pro bono and in 2015 allowed GSML to expand the hospital facilities to include a sea turtle tank.[17][18][19]

Wetland preservation[edit]

Gulf Specimen Marine Lab has worked to preserve coastal wetlands and in particular was directly involved in the preservation of 35,000 acres of wetlands in the Florida Panhandle and the Florida Big Bend region through government lobbying, appearances at public meetings, television and radio appearances, and popular articles and books about marine wetlands.[16][20][21][22][23][24]

Jellyfish industry[edit]

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory was involved in early efforts to establish the now successful jellyfish export industry on the East Coast of the US.[25][26][27][28]

Sea turtle rescue[edit]

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory staff began tagging sea turtles under the guidance of Archie Carr[29][30] and were the third sea turtle rescue organization in Florida. GSML is one of 23 state-permitted captive sea turtle facilities and the northernmost in Florida.[31] In addition to short-term rescue such as cold-stunning[32] and fish hook removal[33] the lab provides long-term rehabilitation.[34] The lab lacks specialized laser treatment surgical equipment for sea turtles and must transfer them from the Panhandle region to facilities such as Clearwater Marine Aquarium if they require laser treatment for fibropapillomatosis.[17] However Dr. Griggs have been successful in complex surgical procedures such as reconstructive surgery on partial amputations.[35] Their best known sea turtle was Allie, a 250 lb (113 kg), 50-year-old female loggerhead sea turtle rescued by a local commercial fisherman at Alligator Point, Florida, on May 15, 2012. Allie required 14 months of care before she was returned to the wild on June 22, 2013. Thousands of people followed her recovery online and 1500 people came to see her released at Bald Point State Park.[34][36] In 2015 GSML joined the Responsible Pier Initiative [1] as a partner with The Loggerhead Marinelife Centre. This resulted in a 600% increase in the number of Kemp's ridleys they rescued (from an average of 1-3/year to 17 in 2015) and they started a second social media campaign to expand their turtle rehabilitation facilities.[37] In March 2016 GSML opened a "turtle hospital" in a renovated kitchen to give Dr. Griggs and GSML staff a suitable place to treat the turtles at the lab and decrease transport stress on animals.[38] GSML has twice been involved in rescuing many cold-stunned sea turtles first in 2010 and then again in 2018.[39] In May 2020, fishermen brought in a large female critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle caught in their net. Facebook followers were polled and she was named Myrtle. The turtle was treated for a neck injury before release back to the wild.[40]


Gulf Specimen Marine Lab staff and volunteers use experiential learning approaches to teach marine science and environmental awareness. GSML has several "touch tanks" of various sizes where visitors are encouraged to handle marine organisms "to overcome fear and increase curiosity and thereby learning"[41] as well as guided marsh walks and visits to the GSML dock.[16] The laboratory is visited by an average of 12,000 children in 400 school groups each year.[16] In 2011 GSML added the Sea Mobile, a mobile version of the touch tank display, to provide the experience to groups unable to travel to the aquarium.[4] GSML also provides internship opportunities to community college and university students.[42]

Contributions to research[edit]

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory provides marine specimens to scientists worldwide, including some that were the first specimen known to science, such as Chiropsella rudloei.[43][44][45] GSML provided organisms sent to space by NASA.[46] In addition GSML has supported direct research; for example, the laboratory assisted with an update to the 1957 Winston Menzel Annotated Check-list of the Marine Fauna and Flora of the region[16][47] and provides the National Geographic Society-supported The Photo Ark project with an ongoing source of specimens.[48][49] In 1968 GSML provided the first specimens of the bryozoan Bugula neritina used by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop the bryostatin family of drugs used for treatment of cancer, HIV, Alzheimer's disease and strokes.[50][51] Authors associated with GSML and its predecessor the Panacea Institute of Marine Science have published more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific articles on horseshoe crabs, electric rays, mysid shrimp, sea turtles, algae fuel and astrobiology.[52][16][53][54]


  • 2014 Education and Outreach Environmental Law Institute National Wetlands Award[55]
  • 2004 ChevronTexaco Conservation Award[46]
  • 2003 Gulf Guardian Award Winners (3rd)[56]
  • 2003 Governor's Community Investment Award, Partners in Prevention.[57]
  • 2021 The Governing Board for the Northwest Florida Water Management District named Anne Rudloe the 2020 winner of the River and Bay Champion award.[15]


  1. ^ T. Manning, S. Matos, B. Addler, "Hidden Treasure: The Steinbeck-Rudloe Letters", Steinbeck Studies 16.1–2 (2005) 109–17
  2. ^ "Alumna Writes, Lives, Researches Florida Ecology", Mocavo Records, MWC Today, Spring 1983, pp. 7–8
  3. ^ "Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories Conservation Plan for Individual Take Permit", Permits and Authorizations, Fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, January 27, 2003, retrieved January 30, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Haloub, Bonnie. "Panacea marine lab celebrates 50 years", Tallahassee Democrat, May 12, 2014, retrieved January 30, 2015.
  5. ^ Portman, J Marine lab needs help to keep caring for its sea creatures Tallahassee Democrat, Feb 2015, retrieved May 21, 2015
  6. ^ "Spot" Gives You Two Flippers Up For Your Support of Our Ozonator System Sunday, March 8, 2015, Retrieved May 21, 2015
  7. ^ Etters, K New water-purifying system installed at Panacea marine lab Tallahassee Democrat June 18, 2015, Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  8. ^ Xylem supports Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory's sea turtle rehabilitation program Retrieved Jan 26, 2015
  9. ^ Etters, K Panacea marine lab takes a hit Tallahassee Democrat, September 2, 2016
  10. ^ Return of the Living Dock
  11. ^ Diaz de Villegas, R. Gulf Specimen Marine Lab Recovers After Hurricane Michael FSU Ecology Blog, October 14, 2018 accessed October 26, 2018
  12. ^ Bedi, B Gulf Specimen Marine Lab recovering after Michael WCTV Eyewitness News October 24, 2018, Accessed October 29, 2018
  13. ^ Pittman, C Coronavirus and tourism: Founder Jack Rudloe won't give up on Gulf Specimen Marine Lab Tallahassee Democrat, Published May 30, 2020, accessed June 1, 2020
  14. ^ Hassanein, N. Gulf Specimen Marine Lab to build education center in honor of marine scientist Anne Rudloe Tallahassee Democrat, July 17, 2020 accessed July 30, 2020
  15. ^ a b District names Anne Rudloe 2020 'River and Bay Champion' Northwest Florida Water Management District, January 14, 2021, 3:11 PM, accessed Jan 15, 2021
  16. ^ a b c d e f Bettendorf, Elizabeth. "A place, a purpose, a Panacea" Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, Florida State University Research Review, Summer 2009, pp. 28–39.
  17. ^ a b Gannet Newsservice, "Sea turtle said to suffer from disease caused by humans" Archived 2015-01-25 at 10News this morning, November 28, 2013, retrieved February 4, 2015
  18. ^ Aleman, L. "Panacea's Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories Celebrates 50th Year", 850 Business Magazine, Feb-Mar 2015
  19. ^ Portman J Spot the sea turtle slips back into the waves Tallahassee Democrat, June 2, 2015 (Retrieved June 4, 2015)
  20. ^ Wyatt Blassingame, "Jack and the Dragline. One man's unwavering battle to save North Florida's Marshes", Audubon75.3, May 1973, pp. 53–59
  21. ^ Neil Maxwell, "Lonely Causes. Jack Rudloe's Crusade to Save Tidal Swamps Wins Him Few Friends. He Says Dredging Projects Will ruin Florida Coast: An Altruist or a 'Nut'?", Wall Street Journal, Vol. CLXXXIII No. 22, January 31, 1974.
  22. ^ "Jack and Anne Rudloe reach millions to save Florida wetlands", Wetlands Warriors 2005, p. 2
  23. ^ L. Willoughby, Flowing Through Time: A History of the Lower Chattahoochee River, University of Alabama Press, 1999, p. 183
  24. ^ E. Whitney, D. B. Means, A. Rudloe, Priceless Florida: Natural Ecosystems and Native Species, Pineapple Press, 2004
  25. ^ "Goodbye Oysters, Hello Jellyfish?". Miami Herald. 17 July 1988.
  26. ^ Morgenthaler, Eric (14 December 1992). "U.S. Has Jellyfish That Nobody Wants Except Maybe in Asia: Man With Plan in Panacea, Fla., Sees Export Opportunity In What is Usually a Bane". Wall Street Journal. pp. A1, A4.
  27. ^ "Jellyfish Alert: taking the sting out", New York Times Magazine, September, 1995.
  28. ^ Bland, Alister (31 January 2014). "Southern Fishermen Cash In On Asia's Taste For Jellyfish". NPR. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  29. ^ Anne and Jack Rudloe, "Sea Turtles. In a Race for Survival", National Geographic 185.2, February 1994, pp. 94–121
  30. ^ Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium (San José, Costa Rica, 1983) Archived 2015-02-20 at the Wayback Machine, U.S. National Report, WATS I, Vol 3, No. 53, pp. 423–88.
  31. ^ "Where to view Sea Turtles", Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Retrieved January 30, 2015
  32. ^ "Cold Stunning Participants", Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  33. ^ Anderson, D. "Discover Our Local Aquarium: Gulf Specimen Marine Lab" Archived 2015-02-20 at the Wayback Machine, Outdoor and Nature, Visit Tallahassee, A Division of Leon County, Florida
  34. ^ a b Nickerson, E. "Allie The Sea Turtle Released Into The Wild" Archived 2015-02-20 at the Wayback Machine WCTV2, Tallahassee, Florida, June 22, 2013, retrieved January 30, 2015.
  35. ^ Zema,N Injured sea turtle lent a hand Wakulla News August 26, 2015, retrieved Aug 28, 2015
  36. ^ Swoboda, L. Day trippers Flock to Turtle Release Archived 2015-02-20 at the Wayback Machine, Aplalach Times, June 26, 2013
  37. ^ Daily, R. Gulf Specimen raising funds for new, better turtle tanks, Tallahassee Democrat, February 14, 2016, retrieved February 11, 2016
  38. ^ Etters, K., Panacea marine lab opens new turtle hospital Tallahassee Democrat, March 28, 2016
  39. ^ White, A. Gulf Specimen Marine Lab sees influx of cold-stunned sea turtles, preparing for more Tallahassee Democrat, January 13, 2018, Accessed April 12, 2018
  40. ^ Messier, H, Sea turtle nesting season begins at Alligator Point WCTV Eyewitness News, May 28, 2020, accessed June 1, 2020.
  41. ^ P. M. Franklin, N. J. Mikula, Backroads of Florida: Your Guide to Great Day Trips & Weekend Getaways, Voyageur Press, 2009, p. 147
  42. ^ "Interning at Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory", WFSU Ecology Blog video
  43. ^ Chiropsella rudloei, at Wikispecies
  44. ^ Bastian Bentlage, "Description of the chirodropid box jellyfish Chiropsella rudloei sp. nov. (Cnidaria: Cubozoa) from Madagascar Marine Biodiversity Records", Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 6 (2013) e118, doi:10.1017/S1755267213000924;
  45. ^ Bentalge, B. "A Jellyfish meets its namesake: Wetland Warrior Jack Rudloe"[permanent dead link], Department of Invertebrate Zoology News - No Bones, Washington DC, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, 20 May 2014, retrieved January 30, 2015
  46. ^ a b Environmental Heroes Honored at 50th Annual ChevronTexaco Conservation Awards Investors, Press Release, Chevron Texaco, Sep 9, 2004, Retrieved January 30, 2015
  47. ^ R. Winston Menzel, Annotated Check-list of the Marine Fauna and Flora of the St. George's Sound-Applachee Bay Region, Florida Coast (Contribution No. 61) 1956
  48. ^ About the PhotoArk, Joel Sartore Photography Inc., 2014, retrieved February 4, 2015
  49. ^ Lisch, E Local marine life in spotlight for National Geographic WCTV October 11, 2016
  50. ^ Thomas J. Manninga et al., "Identifying bryostatins and potential precursors from the bryozoan 'Bugula neritina'", Natural Product Research 19.5 (2005) 467–1
  51. ^ Halford, B. "The Bryostatins' Tale", Chemical and Engineering News 89.43, October 24, 2011, pp. 10–17
  52. ^ Gordon, R. Sharov, AA Eds. (2017). Habitability of the Universe Before Earth [Volume 1 in the series: Astrobiology: Exploring Life on Earth and Beyond, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 2017
  53. ^ V. Vinayak, R. Gordon, S. Gautam, A. Rai, "Discovery of a Diatom That Oozes Oil", Advanced Science Letters 20 (7-9), 1256-1267, July 1, 2014
  54. ^ Jack and Anne Rudloe Papers, University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
  55. ^ 2014 Education and Outreach National Wetlands Awards Winners, Environmental Law Institute, Washington DC, Retrieved January 30, 2015
  56. ^ Gulf Guardian Award Winners 2003, 3rd US Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf Guardian Award Winners 2003, Youth/Education Category - 3rd Place, Project #: GG-03-2, Gulf of Mexico Program Office, MS, Retrieved January 30, 2015
  57. ^ Chandler, D. "Domino's owner wins community award", The Gainesville Sun, October 21, 2003, retrieved February 4, 2015

External links[edit]