September 12, 2018

KEY LARGO — Since the 1990 founding of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, Lad Akins has been the citizen-science organization’s most visible executive.

That 28-year relationship ended abruptly Aug. 31.

“I was notified on Wednesday, August 29, that Friday would be my last day as a REEF employee,” Akins posted in a Facebook message last week. “I am no longer associated with the REEF organization.”

Akins was among the REEF founders, serving as executive director for 16 years before moving into a position as special projects director. He is considered a leading expert in the campaign against invasive lionfish that threaten native fish species.

Akins and current executives of REEF, a Key Largo-based nonprofit, declined to detail any specifics of the split.

“We do not comment on private employee situations,” said Caroly Shumway, marine scientist newly named as REEF executive director.

“Recent changes have occurred at REEF,” says a statement from the REEF board of directors.

After listing new hires, the statement continues, “Lad Akins, a longstanding REEF staff member who most recently served as Director of Special Projects, has left REEF. He spearheaded work on controlling invasive lionfish in the western Atlantic.”

“I’m not leaving diving or conservation. Still lots to do!” Akins wrote on Facebook. “Looking forward to putting my energy into what’s next.”

kwadlow@keysnews.com