Florida Keys

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Florida Keys Community College established a mariculture program six years ago, after the movie "Finding Nemo" created a craze for clownfish like the title character.

But it wasn't until Mick Walsh arrived three years ago to head up the college's marine environmental technology department that the program took off.

"When I got here, we had eight pairs of parent fish and that was it," Walsh said. "And now we have eight pairs of parent fish and hundreds, hundreds of baby clownfish and many more that have also been adopted out to community members and students."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Most voters in the Florida Keys said in a Nov. 8 referendum that they were in favor of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in the Keys.

Monroe County Sheriff's Office

A backhoe joyride on the Seven Mile Bridge last winter that tied up traffic in the Florida Keys and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage has ended in state prison.

Carl Blahnik, 60, was sentenced this week to 30 months in state prison. He also has to pay more than $43,000 in restitution for damage to the bridge and the backhoe.

In the Florida Keys on Election Day, along with the presidential race, one of the most controversial items on the ballot dealt with Zika. In a nonbinding vote countywide, residents in the Florida Keys approved a measure allowing a British company to begin a trial release of genetically modified mosquitoes. Armed with that approval, local officials voted Saturday to try out what they hope will be a new tool in the fight against Zika.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

People in the Keys have been living alongside Key deer for a long time. And for ages, wildlife officials have implored people: Don't feed the deer.

But now the deer are in trouble, and breaking the old rules is part of the solution.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

An argument that has been taking place in Mosquito Control board meetings, hotel conference rooms and Facebook comment strings finally moved to the ballot box on Tuesday.

With most of the vote in (32 of 33 precincts) the GMO mosquito question had split results.

In Key Haven where the test would take place, it's a resounding no - 65 to 35 percent. But the rest of the county said yes - 58 to 42 percent. 

Sue Schaf / Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Sea turtle nesting season  wrapped up at the end of October. The data is still being compiled, but initial reports indicate it was a particularly good year for one species.

"It was a great year for loggerheads this year, even with the storms," said Sue Schaf, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Mark Hedden

It's easy to spot birders. They probably have binoculars and a field guide handy. And there’s a good chance they keep a list of which birds they’ve seen, when and where.

But there’s a rare subspecies of birder you can see in South Florida every fall at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch.

Those are counters.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Federal authorities hope sterile screwworm fly releases and treating the Key deer will save the endangered species, which lives only on a few islands of the Lower Keys.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Since a screwworm infestation was identified in the Lower Keys, more than 10 million sterile screwworm flies have been released on eight islands.

Sterile flies are the proven technology to eradicate screwworms. The flies are zapped with gamma radiation, making them sterile. Then those sterile flies are released to breed with wild flies. That stops reproduction, preventing more fly larvae.

Those larvae are the problem. Screwworm flies lay their eggs in open wounds. When the larvae hatch — those larvae are the actual "screwworms" — they feed on the living flesh of the host.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The nonprofit group Habitat for Humanity is known for helping people fix up their property. But one South Florida branch is now facing its own problems with a fixer-upper.

Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore on Big Pine Key is a 6,000-foot showroom with everything from sofas to chandeliers – at very reasonable prices. 

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The plays of Tennessee Williams are usually set in the steamy, hot American South. Laurie Sansom is a theater director from chilly, gray Britain. But he’s come to love the works of one of America’s greatest playwrights. And because Key West is where Tennessee Williams lived for decades, that’s where Sansom came to work on a new project.

Officials say they've found no evidence of screwworm in hundreds of pets examined for signs of the parasite killing endangered deer in the Florida Keys.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The first Florida trial of the Wolbachia bacteria to combat Aedes aegypti mosquitoes has been approved for the Florida Keys.

Aedes aegypti are the mosquitoes responsible for transmitting the Zika virus. They can also carry dengue fever and chikingunya.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services approved MosquitoMate's request for a trial of Wolbachia as a method of mosquito control in the Florida Keys.

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