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.
As curator and historian at Islamorada’s Keys History & Discovery Center, Brad Bertelli is a storyteller who spins colorful tales with rich factual details about life in the Florida Keys. He has also authored several books — including two about snorkeling in Florida and the Keys, and one each about Key Largo and Islamorada.
In his previous life, Mike Goldberg was a Bear Stearns money manager. But things change, and a year ago, he and marine biologist Kylie Smith, a Florida Wildlife Commission scientist, spearheaded the founding of I.CARE — the Keys’ only Islamorada-based reef restoration organization — partnering with Mote Marine Laboratory and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.
As well as human visitors who come to the Florida Keys for rest and renewal, marine creatures in need also come calling. Some have health problems, while others are injured, orphaned or lost. Throughout the island chain, ailing sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and whales encounter dedicated professionals and volunteers ready to provide care.
Islamorada artist Jessica Ann Cecil has a unique flair for painting marine life — and she’s passionate about using her art to connect patrons, clients and students with Florida Keys marine ecosystem conservation efforts. She often earmarks a percentage of art sales for Keys nonprofits including the Coral Restoration Foundation, Dolphins Plus and Save-A-Turtle.
Kristie Killam’s love of nature is an underlying theme in her life and career. As park ranger for the Florida Keys’ four national wildlife refuges, Kristie oversees the refuges’ Nature Center, opened last fall, and the nonprofit Florida Keys Wildlife Society “friends” group of volunteers and partners. She’s also a skilled nature photographer.
Conservation-minded divers and snorkelers can enjoy a unique underwater concert that supports reef protection Saturday, July 11, in the Florida Keys — home to the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef. The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival takes place at beautiful Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Rachel Bowman, the Florida Keys’ only female commercial lionfish harvester, is passionate about protecting native species by controlling the population of invasive lionfish. A licensed boat captain, she moved to the Keys nearly two decades ago. Now she captures thousands of pounds of lionfish annually, contributing significantly to the “conservation through consumption” movement.