In May, Elena Muratori celebrates 25 years with the Florida Park Service. With two decades of working at John Pennekamp Coral Reef and Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical state parks, she’s one of the longest-serving stewards at any Florida Keys state park. And she’s deeply dedicated to restoring and preserving natural resources.
In keeping with the global “Restore Our Earth” theme for April’s Earth Day 2021, it’s easy to participate in meaningful, memorable activities in the Florida Keys such as diving, snorkeling and even Snuba, a hybrid of the two. But whatever the underwater activity, it’s important to practice the principles of coral reef etiquette.
Rob Oliverio traded life as a road warrior — a corporate manager launching House of Blues openings in Boston, New Orleans and Los Angeles — for life as an eco-entrepreneur and owner of Key West’s Mellow Ventures. Today he’s focused on helping visitors learn to appreciate, respect and protect the beauty of the Keys.
For Christina Wilson, hosting “Island Hopping: Florida Keys" enabled her to dive into unique Florida Keys adventures — and share them with viewers of the syndicated television special that recently began airing across the United States. The show explores the Keys’ natural environment and ecotourism opportunities, abundant water-based activities, easygoing lifestyle and signature cuisine.
Kelly Grinter estimates she’s rescued and released more than 20,000 injured birds since she founded the Marathon Wild Bird Center in 1995. The sanctuary at Marathon’s Crane Point Hammock Museum and Nature Center has 11 habitats and about 40 permanent residents — and Kelly is inspired by each bird admitted into the facility’s care.
Florida Keys artist Dan Davis, owner of the online Florida Keys Ocean Gallery, uses the ancient Japanese art of gyotaku to create prints from fish he catches in Keys waters. He also educates art lovers about the need to preserve local waters that are home to a vast array of prized game fish.
No one can deny that 2020, and its holiday season, are different than any other year in memory. Whether grief and loss, economic fears or the stress of isolation, almost everyone is feeling the effects of the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Yet even so, it’s possible to find occasional bright spots that bring hope.
Kelly McKinnon, executive director of the Pigeon Key Foundation, is one of four residents of the historic island beneath the Middle Keys’ Old Seven Mile Bridge. The 5-acre Pigeon Key once housed laborers building the 1900s-era Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, and Kelly is committed to its sustainability and future as a cultural attraction.
Renowned photojournalist Stephen Frink, quite possibly the planet’s most prolific published underwater photographer, makes his home in Key Largo — a place he values for its incredible marine life population, offshore reef and legacy marine conservation restrictions. He’s passionate about using his stunning underwater images to inspire people to appreciate the coral reef.
Six state parks in the Upper Florida Keys offer some of the Keys’ most scenic wide-open spaces for social distancing, solitude and outdoor recreational activities like hiking, swimming, snorkeling and paddling. Acclaimed among the region's prime natural attractions, these parks are rich with Florida Keys history, upland and coastal landscapes and underwater life.