The Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery experience, designed by PGAV destinations, recently opened at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, S.C. The opening brings the day-to-day operations of the institutions Sea Turtle Care Center into full view on the Aquarium’s first floor.

For 17 years, a dedicated team of staff and volunteers operated a behind-the-scenes sea turtle hospital in a space which only enabled a few guests to visit the Aquarium’s sick and injured sea turtle patients.

Now, both a hospital and a guest experience, Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery makes the real-life rehabilitation of sick and injured sea turtles visible to every guest who visits the Aquarium.

St. Louis-based experience design firm PGAV Destinations was the architect for the project. Their work included graphic and exhibit design together with interpretive and media concept design.

Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery – an incredible opportunity

Interactive stations further enable you to learn the causes of sea turtle stranding and to practice diagnosing a mock patient. Tablets next to the patient tanks share each turtle’schildren look at XRay at Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery jpg (1) unique story and enable guests to learn about the rescue and recovery of every turtle and follow their progress which ultimately leads to their release back into the wild. A classroom and theater provide a glimpse into what happens before and after a turtle’s time in recovery.

“The new Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery is an incredible opportunity to bring our team’s invaluable rescue and recovery efforts to the greater attention and accessibility of our guests,” said South Carolina Aquarium president and CEO Kevin Mills.

“These intimate experiences are integral to build the community’s understanding and conservation passion, while bolstering local efforts to support and grow our coastal sea turtle populations.”

“Sea turtles are ambassadors of our oceans, telling the story of conservation and awareness,” explained Emily Howard, PGAV Destinations vice president and design team lead for the South Carolina Aquarium’s newest experience.

“Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery takes injured and sick sea turtles’ stories to another level, allowing guests to experience first-hand the rescue and rehabilitation process by witnessing the caregivers who work with the turtles, hearing individual turtle’s stories, and participating in hands-on interactive rescue experiences. The exhibit connects people to these ocean creatures and inspires them to be ambassadors for the ocean as well.”

turtle swims at Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery

A Closer Look at Recovery

Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery also features:

Upgraded Tanks

  • The opening of Recovery nearly doubles the Aquarium’s patient capacity. Not only is the organization able to help more turtles, but it also has adequate space to properly treat large turtles like adult loggerheads, which can grow to more than 300 pounds.
  • The floor of the tank area is elevated about two feet off the ground. This not only helps guests come face-to-face with the turtles but also provides space for the plumbing and water filtration systems for life support systems. Guests are also able to see the turtles clearly through the one-way glass. However, they cannot see the guests. This helps to ensure a minimum of stress as they recover.
  • A special “endless pool” with a continuous current provides exercise and therapy opportunities for turtles as they approach their release back into the wild. Recovery is believed to be the first sea turtle rehabilitation facility in the U.S. to implement this groundbreaking technology.

boy at at Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery

Improved Medical Facility

  • Behind the walls of Recovery lies a fully renovated medical facility that enables Aquarium experts to provide world-class animal care.
  • A new CT scanner provides superior diagnostic images. This helps veterinary staff view not only a turtle’s skeleton, but also its internal organs. This enables them to diagnose conditions in the lungs or intestines. This technology on-site prevents staff from having to transport the turtle patients to outside offices for scans. It also keeps their stress at a minimum.
  • A modern operating room is the perfect space for the Aquarium’s veterinarian to perform surgical procedures. These benefit turtle patients as well as permanent animal residents. During certain times, guests will even see a medical operation in progress through the room’s viewing window.

Interactive Mock Medical Stations

  • Augmented reality technology enables guests to test their veterinary skills with mock sea turtle patients. Guests may follow the same steps performed by the Aquarium’s triage team. They can take vital signs and diagnose the condition of synthetic turtles. These are modeled after the species and injuries encountered most frequently during rehabilitation.
  • At another station, guests may learn about eight of the most common ailments that affect turtles in the hospital. They can also discover how to treat them with hands-on activities.

Classroom and Object Theater

A 40-seat classroom and theater hosts daily programs. It features video that showcases a sea turtles’ journey from rescue to rehabilitation to release. To immerse viewers in the sea turtle’s point of view, the space comes to life using light and sound elements. These accentuate the context of the video.