Sarah Rubelowsky

Sarah Rubelowsky, pictured in a lab next to a microscope
Photo by Tom Thompson

Sarah Rubelowsky is a Master Scuba Diver Trainer, certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. She was looking for a veterinary school that would allow her to dive into marine and aquatic medicine, and she has found Mississippi State University and its College of Veterinary Medicine to be the perfect fit.

“With my background in aquatics, I gravitated to MSU largely because of the aquatic rotation offered to all veterinary medicine students and because of the Global Center for Aquatic Health and Food Security’s work on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said the Class of 2026 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student.

Before coming to MSU, Rubelowsky earned a degree in biological sciences from the University of Southern Mississippi where she worked in a fish laboratory. After graduation, she accepted a scuba diving internship in the Florida Keys to become a Master Scuba Diver Trainer. The internship led to a year-long job that gave her teaching, diving and conservation work experience. Combined with her research in a cave biology laboratory at Texas A&M University at Galveston, where she completed her master’s degree in marine biology, all arrows pointed toward pursuing an additional graduate program at MSU with a focus on marine and aquatic medicine.

“I am a hands-on learner, so I appreciate that MSU allows students to get a wide range of practical experience in the field to have a well-rounded education,” she said. “Additionally, with my background in research, finding more opportunities to further my horizons was important to me, which led me to research on stranded sea turtles under GCAHFS' Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Health Program.”

The GCAHFS' program is protecting and maintaining the health of aquatic animals through veterinary care, innovative research and sustainable solutions. Sea turtles may wash ashore when they are sick or can accidentally be hooked by fishers. When that happens, the team of GCAHFS veterinarians, who are also MSU CVM faculty, spring to action to get the turtles healthy for return to their home.

“The purpose of the research project was to screen samples from stranded turtles from the Mississippi Coast for infectious pathogens, namely viruses,” Rubelowsky said.

She became involved by reaching out to Caroline Betbeze, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, and shared her interest in ophthalmic research as well as her passion for aquatic medicine. She was then invited to pursue sea turtle research alongside experts in the field through the Veterinary Medicine Research Scholars Program at MSU CVM.

“Betbeze performs ophthalmic examinations (or eye exams) on cold-stunned turtles that are rehabilitated at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies through a partnership with GCAHFS," Rubelowsky said. "I had the opportunity to assist her during these examinations, and during that time, additional turtles from the Mississippi Coast were stranded for reasons requiring additional investigation.

“All sea turtle species that are native to the Gulf of Mexico are endangered with one being classified as critically endangered, the Kemp’s ridley. Sea turtles serve as important indicators for environmental health, so the more we understand about the health of these populations, the better we can assess the overall health of the Gulf. It was an amazing opportunity to be a part of this research to protect and rehabilitate sea turtles.”