Five Questions for Theodora Long

Executive Director of Biscayne Nature Center

Theodora H. Long is executive director of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, an organization dedicated to conservation and situated in Crandon Park along the coastal beaches it seeks to preserve. With an ocean full of sea life to explore in its backyard and a facility that includes exhibit space, a demonstration lab and massive tanks filled with local seahorses and eels, the center has been providing programming to the community since 1969. We sat down with Long to find out about our island’s treasures – including information about best ice cream treat in town.

How did you become involved in the Biscayne Nature Center?
I met Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who founded the center, at a Junior League meeting and she said to us one day, “Ladies, I need your help.” I have an art background but I’ve always been interested in plants and the environment, so I agreed immediately. The organization at that time operated in back of a hot dog stand, and then Marjory moved it to a trailer. Eventually I raised $4 million for the building and we broke ground on her birthday – April 7th – in 1998. Two weeks later, she died at 108 years old. We had the ribbon cutting ceremony two years later, also on her birthday.

What do you think we’re doing that’s causing the most damage to the environment?
We’re using too much plastic – putting things in Zip Lock bags and drinking out of water bottles. This is going to take forever to disintegrate. We have to start using real products – china plates, cloth napkins – that we can wash and reuse.

Is that what you do here?
We just had a party for 170 people and the only trash we had was the napkins. It was a big party but we left with just one small bag of trash.

What’s the biggest treasure we have on Key Biscayne?
There are so many but first it’s that we can watch the sea turtles hatch. Also, we can drag nets and find sea horses. I had never seen one before in real life, only books and drawings. And finally, an important treasure here is the Key Biscayne community. You go into the shops and get ice cream and everyone knows each other.

So where do you get your ice cream?
The Golden Hog has a key lime gelato that’s fabulous.

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