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.
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.
For decades, Bishop Al Kee welcomed visitors to Key West’s Southernmost Point marker, acting as a smiling ambassador for the island. He sold fluted, pink-lined conch shells beside the iconic waterfront landmark, sliced open coconuts for those who wanted to drink the sweet coconut water inside, and cheerfully posed for innumerable visitor photos.
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.
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.
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.
Lisa Mongelia, the executive director of Islamorada’s History of Diving Museum, is a passionate diver. A member of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s advisory council, she’s extremely active in protecting the oceans to benefit future generations. Her goals for the museum include increasing educational outreach and, through diving, leading Keys environmental initiatives.
Gary Marion, who stars as "Sushi" in Key West’s popular New Year’s Eve “drag queen drop” while perched in a giant red high-heel shoe, is sewing colorful cloth masks to protect people during the global coronavirus crisis. Assisted by members of his drag troupe, he has already made more than 2,500 masks.