Nancy Klingener

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami HeraldSolares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.

She is a Spring 2014 graduate of the Transom Story Workshop. She is on the board of the Key West Literary Seminar and reviews books for the Miami Herald

In the 1980s, Key West was hit especially hard by AIDS. The group AIDS Help was created then to provide hospice care and treatment for people who had the disease.  Over the years, it changed its name to AH-Monroe and expanded its mission to address crises from affordable housing to the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Irma cost Florida's fishing industries almost $200 million, according to a damage assessment released by the state and federal governments.

State wildlife officers are investigating the shooting of an osprey Tuesday morning at a waterfront park in Key West.

Osreys - also known as fish hawks - are protected by the migratory bird act and are listed by the state as a species of special concern in Monroe County.

Executive Director of the Key West Wildlife Center Thomas Sweets said he got the call around 11:20 a.m. that there was an osprey with a broken wing that couldn't fly at Truman Waterfront.

With lots of rain and high humidity over the summer, Big Pine Key has not seen a repeat of last spring's wildfire that consumed dozens of acres. And the state forest service is trying to keep it that way.

The fire last April consumed dozens of acres and destroyed one structure. It was fueled by the dead vegetation left behind by Hurricane Irma, which crossed the Lower Keys as a Category 4 hurricane in September of 2017.

Across Florida, school is starting with new attention to school safety and security. In the Keys, that means more than increased police protection.

Monroe County already had one of the highest suicide rates in the state of Florida.

Then came Hurricane Irma. And although most of the debris has been removed from land - and lots of repairs are underway — the storm continues to impact the Keys, almost a year later.

The captain of a charter boat carrying government scientists on an environmental research cruise near the Keys has been cited for violating environmental regulations.

The Turtle Hospital in Marathon releases 50 to 60 sea turtles back to the ocean every year. On Friday two unusually large turtles returned to the sea — with new souvenirs from their time on land.

Every few weeks, Fred and Melissa Bach host a neighborhood barbecue at their home in the Avenues, on Big Pine Key. Fred’s watching the grill, a barrel shaped rig with a smoker on the side. There are ribs, chicken, salmon — all sizzling and smelling good.

A neighborhood cookout on a Sunday afternoon is a normal thing in most places. But here, in this neighborhood full of mobile homes and ground level houses, these barbecues are a rare refuge of normalcy.

The Avenues took a direct blow from Hurricane Irma last September.

Is there anything more Floridian than a flamingo?

They’re everywhere. Pink plastic ornaments dotting lawns. On cocktail swizzlers and motel signs.

A new program that allows students to provide information anonymously to school officials by text message will be used throughout the Monroe County school system in the fall.

There are three hospitals in the Florida Keys — and one of them was critically wounded by Hurricane Irma. Fishermen’s Community Hospital in Marathon has been operating as a field hospital since the storm. Now the hospital’s nonprofit owner is seeking some help from Middle Keys taxpayers to keep it going.

As the rainy season returns — along with the disease-carrying mosquitoes that reproduce in standing water — the public is getting another chance to comment on one proposed method for fighting mosquitoes.

The forecasters got Hurricane Irma mostly right. At least compared to the predictions of past storms. That’s one of the conclusions from a National Hurricane Center report on the big storm that hit Florida last September.

Sofas, refrigerators, pipes and lobster traps all wound up littering the Keys reef and backcountry flats after Hurricane Irma blew through in September.

Now the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary wants to deploy volunteer divers to remove the debris.

Federal elected officials who represent the area where 17 people died Wednesday said they are committed to trying to prevent another mass shooting — but differ on where the focus of public attention should be.

In a lot of ways life has returned to normal in most of the Florida Keys. But one major institution – a hospital – is still operating out of temporary quarters after Hurricane Irma. 

The Florida Keys are famous as a place to party. That's how they got the nickname "Margaritaville."

But the hard-drinking lifestyle is taking a toll on the residents.

The only organization providing hospice care in the Lower Keys is closing.

A small lizard that lives only in the coastal areas of the Florida Keys is facing "a foreseeable and imminent death sentence" and deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act, according to an environmental group.

As soon as they could after Hurricane Irma, researchers went out onto Florida Bay to see how the estuary fared after its close encounter with a Category 4 storm.

Survey teams this week completed an assessment of the condition of the Keys reef tract, from Biscayne Bay to Key West.

"It's very much like what's observable on land," said Sarah Fangman, superintendent of the 2,900-square-nautical-mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. "In some places, the impacts are pretty dramatic and visible and in other places they are much less. So we're finding the same is true underwater."

Even in the same location, the hurricane's impacts differ.

The endangered Key deer herd was already coming out of a tough year — the herd lost more than 100 animals to New World screwworm.

So when the eye of Hurricane Irma crossed the Lower Keys as a Category 4 storm, wildlife managers were worried. The Lower Keys is also the only place on the planet where Key deer live.

But recently completed population surveys came up with good news, said Dan Clark, manager of the four national wildlife refuges in the Keys, including Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge.

The company that wants to hold the first U.S. trial of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys and Keys residents who oppose the trial don't agree on much.

But representatives from both sides said Thursday they are happy with the recent announcement that federal oversight of the proposed trial will be moved from the Food and Drug Administration to the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We think it's a good thing," said Derric Nimmo, principal scientist at Oxitec, the company that has developed a genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Twenty years ago, only a few areas in the Keys had central sewer systems.

The rest of the island chain was using a combination of shallow injection wells, septic tanks — and even some cesspits, basically holes in the ground that provided no treatment at all.

Since the Keys consists of fossilized coral, that meant polluted water could easily move to canals and shorelines.

While mainland South Florida ramps up its battle against the mosquito that can carry Zika, the Florida Keys has already begun the region's most intensive mosquito control operation.

On holidays like the Fourth of July, Floridians like to head to the beach. But state wildlife officials are reminding the public that some local residents are already there.

Shorebirds and sea turtles nest on beaches. A lot of shorebird species are listed as threatened and all the bird species are protected. The same goes for sea turtles.

Loud noises can cause adult birds to fly away from nests, and tiny chicks can get separated from their parents.

Most of the news and research these days about coral reefs is pretty grim — massive losses from bleaching, everywhere from Australia to the Florida Keys. Some parts of Florida and the Caribbean have lost more than half of the living coral off their reefs in the last three decades.

But there is some good news on the coral research front and this week saw a major milestone in those efforts, when Mote Marine Laboratory opened its new $7 million center in the Keys.

Monroe Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Beaver will be out of a job at the end of June. The state Medical Examiners Commission Wednesday unanimously voted against sending his name to Gov. Rick Scott for re-appointment.

As the rainy season returns to South Florida and the fight against Zika gears up, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Tuesday began a first-in-Florida trial of a control method that uses bacteria to reduce mosquito populations.

The district will release 20,000 male mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria twice a week for the next 12 weeks. The releases will take place in a 10-acre test site on Stock Island,  and mosquito traps there will be compared with a similar-sized control area nearby (but separated by a buffer).

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