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.
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.
Clinton Curry is a seventh-generation Key West resident or “Conch” whose ancestors arrived some 180 years ago from the Bahamas’ Green Turtle Cay. The fifth generation of his family to be born in Key West, he’s passionate about preserving the history and culture of his hometown — through means including masterful conch shell musicianship.
Throughout the Florida Keys, visitors can revel in nature’s richness, immerse themselves in eco-experiences, enjoy opportunities for volunteer and learning vacations, and discover why local residents are so passionate about protecting their environment and lifestyle. As 2020 unfolds, visitors can connect with the Keys’ fascinating natural world and embrace practices that preserve it.
Patrick Garvey owns and operates Big Pine Key’s 2-acre fruit farm Grimal Grove, billed as the first breadfruit grove in the continental U.S. His passion is to grow food sustainably and educate others — and he plans to reopen Grimal Grove Jan. 11 as a Florida Keys breadfruit research site, agritourism attraction and educational park.
Matt Sexton, a former professional kiteboarder, owns and operates the Middle Keys' sustainable Grassy Flats Resort & Beach Club that opened last spring. He also worked with co-owners Mike and Shana Walsh to build oTHErside Adventure Park & Keys Cable -- and he's focused on making a difference through positive ethical, moral and environmental actions.