Small Town Getaway: Panacea and The Gulf Specimen Marine Lab

Lab Photo

Panacea, Florida is a small fishing community on Wakulla County’s Gulf coast.  It’s home to some pretty good fishing and food (Posey’s Up The Creek is my favorite!), but it’s also home to the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory.

Visitors, especially kids, are encouraged to visit the lab and aquarium, and in many cases they’ll get a close and personal look at many marine species.

The lab is billed as an Environmental Education Center, and it’s obvious to understand that facet of the place when you see kids handling and learning about marine animals.

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Here’s some history:

“Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory was founded in 1963 to support marine research and education at universities by supplying live marine animals to academic scientists.Founder Jack Rudloe worked on shrimp boats, lending a hand in return for keeping species that were of no value to the fishermen. Commercial fishermen have remained important collaborators for many years.

John Steinbeck and Gulf Specimen AquariumJack Rudloe started GSML working from the back of his rusted out 1957 Plymouth station wagon. Equipped only with a plastic bucket and a dip net, and accompanied by his Airedale Linda, he combed the beaches and explored the waters of the Florida panhandle in search of specimens. The story is chronicled in his first book “The Sea Brings Forth.”

Hidden Treasure: The Steinbeck-Rudloe Letters 2005 Wakulla news:Steinbeck’s Letters to Panacea 1981

The author John Steinbeck, an avid amateur marine biologist, encouraged the creation of Gulf Specimen and assisted Mr. Rudloe with extensive support and advice. Steinbeck’s support was based on the parallel of Jack Rudloe and Gulf Specimen to Steinbeck’s friend and collaborator Ed Ricketts who operated Pacific Biological Laboratories in Monterey, California – (Doc and Western Biological in Steinbeck’s classic novel Cannery Row). Steinbeck donated the original art from his and Rickett’s book “Log of the Sea of Cortez” to Rudloe.”

The Gulf Specimen Marine Lab is located at 222 Clark Drive, just a few blocks off US Hwy 98 in Panacea.


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