Aquatic animal medicine is a young specialty of veterinary medicine that includes medical care of marine mammals, sea turtles, fishes and aquatic invertebrates. There are broad sub-specialties within aquatic medicine which include care of captive marine mammals, care of pet fishes, zoo and aquarium species, aquaculture medicine, and clinical research involving free-ranging aquatic species. Specialty training incorporates aspects of clinical medicine, wildlife health, environmental science and engineering.
To provide sustainable state of the art training, education, clinical, diagnostic and research support for aquatic animals, both wild and under the care of man. We work in partnership with other University of Florida programs, private groups, oceanaria, industry, researchers, local, state and federal stakeholders as well as other educational institutions.
Aquatic animal health specialization requires substantial training and experience beyond the four year veterinary degree, and may include graduate school, internships, and in some cases, residency training. Residents earn board certification through the American College of Zoological Medicine. There is also a certificate in fish pathology which can be earned through the American Fisheries Society. As a special opportunity for our veterinary students here at the University of Florida, we offer an Aquatic Animal Medicine Certificate to enhance their training through their elective credits. Those not at the University of Florida, can participate in training opportunities through our distance education courses or our summer short courses.
The aquatic animal health program at the University of Florida includes the marine mammal health program operated through the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience. It is funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Also included is a strong program in fish and aquaculture medicine which is run through the Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.
The aquatic animal health program has activities in all academic areas which are part of the University of Florida’s land grant mission. Our unique teaching program offers certification to veterinary students allowing them to pursue specialized training and clinical experience in aquatic animal health while still in veterinary school. Our graduate education program provides training in marine mammal science and aquaculture health with opportunities available at both the M.S. and PhD level. We also offer a unique clinical residency program which is fully accredited by the American College of Zoological Medicine. In addition, we offer opportunities for public education under the auspices of IFAS Cooperative Extension Service. These include evening seminars for the public, workshops for aquaculturists and pet fish hobbyists, a regional marine mammal conference which is offered every third year, and a full suite of continuing education short courses in both fish and marine mammal medicine.
Finally, the aquatic animal health program has a strong research area. Areas of excellence include Florida manatee research, emerging diseases, viral diseases, sea turtle pathology, and aquaculture medicine. A clinical program run by Dr. Mike Walsh includes response to stranded marine mammals as requested by colleagues, and several clinical contracts in the region. Diagnostic services for aquaculture clients are available through the Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.