Cindy Lewis, director of Keys Marine Lab on Long Key, is a woman of diverse talents. A respected specialist in marine biology and coral restoration, she is an American Academy of Underwater Science diver and a National Association of Underwater Instructors dive master. She also plays the French horn with a concert band.
Artist Taylor Hale, a Florida Keys native raised in Key Largo, has come home. Hale is known for his stunning ethereal works of clouds and surreal scenes of the Keys’ natural world, mostly on and around the water. He recently unveiled an Islamorada gallery to display his artistry, with a second coming soon.
Billy Litmer is the founder of Key West’s Honest Eco tours, specializing in wild bottlenose dolphin-watching and nature charters. Designer and builder of the island’s first lithium-ion battery-powered hybrid charter boat with electric motors, he shares his love for the Keys’ wildlife and environment with guests — inspiring them to cherish both.
Mike Goldberg of Islamorada’s I.CARE and Dave Vaughan of Summerland Key’s Plant a Million Corals Foundation have recently earned global recognition for their work on coral restoration in the Florida Keys. Both men were previously recognized as Stewards of the Keys for their dedication to preserving and protecting the island chain’s undersea environment.
Tom Sweets, executive director of the Key West Wildlife Center, discovered his calling by volunteering at the center, providing rescue and rehabilitative care to sick and injured wild birds. The center, located inside the 7-acre Indigenous Park on White Street, treats and rehabilitates about 1,400 wild birds and other Keys creatures each year.
Every day brings a reason to celebrate the planet’s beauty in the Florida Keys — an area of natural wonders set against a backdrop of sea, land and sky. And this coming Earth Day, Keys visitors and residents can honor the environment with activities that include helping restore the island chain’s treasured coral reef.
John Mirabella, owner of the Castaway restaurant in Marathon, could well be called the “Lionfish King” of the Florida Keys. The affable natural storyteller is known as a pioneering lionfish hunter, recognized for spearheading efforts to remove the invasive non-native species from Keys waters — and for serving the flavorful fish in numerous ways.
Brian Vest, founder-president of the Conch Republic Marine Army, a nonprofit organization created to restore Florida Keys marine habitats, has taken more than 4,000 volunteers to the Keys backcountry. Nearly every Saturday, groups of up to 10 volunteers commit to a five-hour experience to clear debris washed up on remote, uninhabited islands.
Danilo Alayon is a fifth-generation “Conch” born and raised in Key West, an avid diver, self-taught artist and proud grandson of the designer of Key West’s world-renowned Southernmost Point monument. Danilo has embraced a unique form of artistry: he converts old, nicked and rusty scuba tanks into sustainable and luminously colorful works.
Captain Matthew “Matt” Bellinger grew up in Sandy Springs, Georgia, studied marine science at the University of Tampa and traveled as a divemaster after college. Today, his company, Bamboo Charters, specializes in family fishing trips — while educating, informing and inspiring clients to learn and care about the Florida Keys’ unique marine environment.