More than 20 industry leaders in marine animal care, rescue and rehab took part in the disaster planning workshop. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

The brightest Keys minds in marine animal care, rescue and rehabilitation converged on Hawks Cay Resort on Aug. 12 as leaders from more than a dozen organizations collaborated in a disaster planning and recovery workshop. Sponsored by the Protect Wild Dolphins Alliance (PWDA), the day served as a sounding board for animal care facilities throughout the Middle and Upper Keys to identify challenges in their disaster preparedness plans during Hurricanes Wilma, Katrina and Irma. Leaders collaborated to share resources, best practices and opportunities for additional help from community partner organizations during future storms.

The group recognized the contributions of State Rep. Jim Mooney for his assistance in passing legislation to establish the “Protect Marine Wildlife” specialty license plate, the proceeds from which will go towards PWDA’s marine rescue and protection initiatives. The group was also treated to a climate change address by keynote speaker Dr. Richard M. Linnehan, a NASA astronaut, retired U.S. Army captain and former chief clinical veterinarian for the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program.

Protect Wild Dolphins Alliance president Steve McCulloch leads a group through an exercise to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in facilities’ hurricane preparedness plans. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly
Alex Rickert
Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.