Florida Keys

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Boaters from the Lower Keys often escape to the nearby islands of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge was created in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect birds from plume hunters. Several of the islands have beaches that are attractive to boaters — and to nesting sea turtles and shorebirds.

Florida Keys Community College

Florida Keys Community College, the only post-secondary education institution based in the island chain, is adding two new associate's degree programs, in Hospitality and Ecotourism Management and in Culinary Management.

The goal is to prepare students to work in the area's dominant industry: tourism — and take advantage of that industry for internships and expertise.  

Monroe County Sheriff's Office

  In July 2014, Ellen Engelson's leg broke spontaneously, weakened from radiation treatments years before.

She lives in Key West,  so she went to the emergency room at the only hospital within 50 miles. But because her leg needed specialized care, she had to get to a hospital on the mainland.

Tracy Ziegler

  Every year, the Ragnar Relay brings 500 teams of runners to the Keys. Each team has eight to 10 members; they run three to five miles, then ride in a van while their teammates are on the road.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  When Richard Payne was campaigning for the Key West City Commission over the last few months, he kept hearing about one issue: affordable housing. It didn't surprise him.

"I have four kids. Three of them don't live here, and that's because they couldn't afford to buy a home here and raise their family here. So basically, they've moved away," said Payne, who won a commission seat earlier this month.

City of Key West

Recent full moon high tides combined with weather systems off the Atlantic coast  to bring more than a week of "nuisance flooding" to streets along the Florida Keys.

And with sea level projected to rise between 3 and 7 inches by 2030, we can expect such events to become more frequent, according to Monroe County planners and consultants.

Jim Sadle / National Park Service

  Even though a possible federal government shutdown was averted when Congress passed a bill to fund the government through Dec. 11, just the possibility still meant that one federal agency had to cancel an operation planned for the Florida Keys this week.

"We got shut down because of the potential shutdown," said Chris Eggleston, acting refuge manager for the Florida Keys. "They didn't want to start anything that would potentially make them work through the shutdown."

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  

The unassuming blue-green building in Marathon once housed a strip club. Now it is a modern medical facility on the cutting edge of veterinary medicine applied to sea turtles.

The Turtle Hospital started in the 1980s, in the motel next door. It started taking in sea turtles that had been hit by boats or tangled in fishing line. And it has always seen patients, especially green sea turtles, with fibropapilloma tumors.

But those numbers have been growing substantially in recent years. 

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  The Florida Keys Hawkwatch Migration Monitoring Project opened for business Tuesday. Birdwatchers will be scanning the skies and counting birds in the Middle Keys every day until Nov. 2.

"We are counting warblers. We are counting thrushes. We are counting a lot of birds of prey, falcons, in particular. We count more falcons here than anywhere else on the planet," said Rafael Galvez, the project's director.

Pike Architects / Florida Keys Community College

Florida Keys Community College is based in Key West, at the end of the island chain. That's where it has its campus, including classrooms, library, dormitories and administration.

For decades, the college has offered classes in the Middle and Upper Keys through "centers" that collaborate with other institutions like the Monroe County School District.

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