Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

About Us

Explore with Local Biologists

Rising Tide Explorers is the only company in Naples & Marco Island that offers guided excursions led by 100% active local biologists and science professionals! We are dedicated to our mission of sharing our passion and knowledge for SWFLs local ecology with you and your family. Come see the world through the eyes of a Florida biologist!

Our Story

Our Story

Rising Tide Explorers was founded in 2016 by a group of local biologists and graduate students looking to share their knowledge and passion for the unique ecological landscape of Naples & Marco Island, FL with others.  After studying the local ecotourism industry, it was discovered that there are no certification, education, training, or experience requirements needed to conduct ecotours in the entire state of Florida!  This left eager travelers with no way of knowing if the guide they were following into the wilderness had any training, safety certifications, or real knowledge of this unique and complex ecosystem.  Having dedicated our lives to exploring the outdoors and studying the ecology of the area, the future guides of RTE decided to leverage their unique backgrounds,  connection to the local science community, and passion for science to raise the bar of the ecotourism industry in Southwest Florida!

With our diverse background of research experience, we now offer fun, educational and family friendly kayak tours & boat tours unlike any other.  As the first and only biologist owned-and-operated ecotour company in the region, and the exclusive ecotour partner of the Friends of Rookery Bay, we take pride in sharing our knowledge of this wild place through the most unique and dynamic adventures in Naples & Marco Island.

Supporting Local Science

While having fun in the outdoors with you and your family, we are also working to support the local science community.  When you explore with RTE, a portion of the proceeds from your tour or rental goes to support the research, education, stewardship, and conservation efforts of the 110,000-acre Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve through our partnership with the Friends of Rookery Bay.  At the same time, your tour ticket is helping to provide additional income opportunities for local science professionals and graduate students who have chosen to spend their lives working to protect, preserve, and better understand out local ecosystems.

We are endlessly grateful for all the love and support we’ve received over the years from our neighbors, friends, colleagues, and all of our fellow explorers who come back year after year to join us for memorable adventures in the estuary.  Exploring together, making memories, and sharing our passion with you and your family is incredibly rewarding for us, and we welcome you to the RTE family.  Looking forward to exploring with you, and we’ll see you on the water!!

a close up of text on a white background
logo diagram

Proud Partner of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve & the Friends of Rookery Bay

As the only true biologist owned and 100% local biologist guided eco-tour company in Southwest Florida, RTE is honored to represent the Rookery Bay Research Reserve as their exclusive ecotour provider. As partners of the 501c3 citizen support organization the Friends of Rookery Bay, our programming helps to raise funds to support the research, education, stewardship, and conservation efforts of the Rookery Bay Research National Estuarine Research Reserve. A portion of the proceeds from your kayak tour, boat tour, kayak rental, and more are given back the the Friends of Rookery Bay to help protect this wild and incredibly unique natural area here in Southwest Florida. Help protect and preserve the place that makes Naples & Marco Island so special by supporting Rookery Bay Reserve and SWFL’s ONLY biologist guides! Book your Tour or Rental today!

Meet the Guides

Meet our biologist guides, captains, and the RTE crew!  Our team is customer service oriented, highly trained, and certified in safety to provide safe, enjoyable, and memorable adventures.  All of our guides and captains are hand selected through the local science community, and we require a minimum of a Master’s degree or relevant research experience in the ecological sciences to qualify as a lead guide.  Would you call your college buddy with a psychology degree he’s never used a psychologist…?  That’s what we thought.  While some may claim to be biologists, our crew is the real deal and we’re willing to prove it!

Read our team’s profiles below to learn more about the most fun and qualified guide staff in Naples & Marco Island!  See who might be leading your next adventure and read about their research experience, area of expertise, and a little about what they do here as part of the SWFL science community.  While sharing a deep knowledge of their wild backyard and living laboratory, you’ll find their passion for all things ecology extremely contagious.  Our fun guides have some decent jokes, but you’ll find it’s a crutch they don’t need to provide you with the most awesome experience in SWFL!  Get out and learn with the most experienced, knowledgeable, and passionate guides of all time with the RTE team!

Capt. Ryan Young

Founder & Lead Explorer

MS Environmental Science –  FGCU

Research Focus: Wetland Ecology, Restoration Ecology, Water Quality

As an eagle scout, world traveler, biologist, and kayaking expert our guide Ryan knows what it means to be an explorer. After a long career as a student, Florida biologist, and local guide, Ryan founded Rising Tide Explorers to help connect people to the most qualified guides in the region and provide them with the most unique adventures in Southwest Florida. Ryan has a master’s degree in Environmental Science from FGCU specializing in Florida Wetlands, is a level 2 Kayaking Instructor with the American Canoe Association, and can answer any question you throw at him! His specialties include wetland ecology, water quality, species identification, biological indicators, restoration ecology, and more!

Capt. Jeannine Young

RTE Education & Outreach - Boat Captain

MA Environmental Science –  FGCU 

Research Focus:  Environmental Education Techniques and Effectiveness

Born and raised in Southwest Florida, Jeannine (J9) has a passion for learning and teaching others. J9 has traveled over the country and the world seeking out new foods, new cultures, new environments, and anything that she can bring back and share with others. Her skill for making even long division seem exciting has led to her current role as the Middle School Education Specialist for the Rookery Bay Reserve where she develops and hosts new programs to connect kids with all the awesome ecological secrets that our area holds. She is also currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies at FGCU. Her specialties include species identification, adaptations & competition, estuarine ecology, and environmental interpretation.

Capt. Winston Purkey

Biologist Guide & Captain

BS Biology & Wildlife Ecology – FGCU

Research Focus: Herpetology, Fisheries, Estuarine Ecology, Fire Ecology

A true Florida boy, Captain Winston grew up in Central Florida fishing, swimming, and kayaking along the east and west coasts of the sunshine state. His obsession with the outdoors led him to pursue a career in the sciences working on rattlesnake and indigo snake research, conducting Gopher Tortoise population studies within Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, working as a Florida Wildland Firefighter, and travelling all the way to South Africa where he monitored great white shark and pajama shark populations. His passion for this incredible place is contagious and Winston often goes above and beyond to help advance our research and protection of this area.  Always trying to find new paths through the mangroves and easily distracted by white ibis or a passing bull shark, Winston gets PUMPED about everything he sees on the water and loves sharing it with our paddlers.  This RTE legend has been declared ‘honorary grandson’ by many of our explorers!

Capt. Sarah Norris

Biologist Captain & Social Media

MS Environmental Science – FGCU (in progress)

Research Focus: Sea Turtle Biology & Nesting Patterns, Land Management, Exotic Species Management

Sarah was born and raised in Florida and know she wanted to pursue a career involving the great outdoors from a very young age. After graduating from FGCU in 2013 she pursued her interest in sea turtles and worked in Ghana conducting conservation research before assuming the role of Sea Turtle Program Coordinator at Rookery Bay Reserve! Sarah is currently finishing her master’s degree at FGCU and enjoys teaching others about Southwest Florida’s unique ecosystems. You may also find her conducting prescribed burns and fighting wildfires as a Certified Florida Wildland Firefighter! Her excitement about our local wildlife is contagious and you can’t help but share in it while kayaking through the mangroves with Sarah!

Matt Metcalf

Biologist Guide & Kayaking Instructor (ACA)

MS Environmental Science – FGCU

Research Focus: Herpetology, Spatial Ecology, Exotic Herpetology, Seagrass Ecology

Hailing from Alabama, ‘Snake Man’ Matt’s interest in reptiles and exotic species drew him to Southwest Florida where he completed his Master’s Degree in Environmental Science at FGCU studying Eastern Indigo Snakes in the Rookery Bay Reserve! His vast experience working in the Florida Keys and Dauphin Island Sea lab gives Matt a well-rounded background in all things Florida. When he isn’t exploring with our guests, Matt teaches biology and conducts snake research at Florida Gulf Coast University and also helps conduct wildlife surveys for Florida Fish and Wildlife. Matt also makes an annual research trip to the Peruvian Amazon where he works with Project Amazonas to conduct reptile and amphibian research deep in the jungle for months at a time.  His specialties include herpetology (reptiles & amphibians), sea grass communities, spatial ecology, and much more!

Samantha Troast

Biologist Guide

MS Environmental Science – FGCU

Research Focus: Herpetology, Ecological Modeling, Exotic Herpetology, Mangrove Ecology

Sam is the heart and soul of RTE and often described by our team as the best of all of us!  Born and raised in Southwest Florida, Sam has been exploring these estuaries since she could walk.  Her connection to this unique landscape has led her to pursue her passion by learning more about it and sharing it with others!  Sam is currently working towards her graduate degree from Florida Gulf Coast University in Environmental Science studying the spatial ecology and population dynamics of the exotic Brahminy Blind Snake.  When she is not exploring the mangroves, Sam is an instructor teaching Biology at FGCU and publishing scientific papers based on her research!  Her energy and passion for this area is contagious, and it’s hard not to love the estuary as much as she does by the time you get off the water!

Evan Sherer

Biologist Guide

MS Estuarine Ecology – College of Charleston

Research Focus: Oyster Reef Ecology, Ocean Acidification, Shellfish Biology

Evan brings a “boat-load” of knowledge (pun intended) to the RTE Team. Hailing from Maryland, Evan has a natural affinity for blue crabs which he will be sure to tell you about. Evan first came to Florida to study marine biology at University of Miami where he helped conduct fish-tagging studies in the Keys and coral reef assessments in Biscayne Bay.  Evan then moved to Charleston, South Carolina to get his Master’s in Environmental Science. When not working on his research into how oysters were effected by changes in water chemistry, he worked as a biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. All-in-all, Evan spent a good deal of time traipsing around in marsh mud (“pluff mud” to Charlestonians). After graduate school Evan moved to New Jersey to work with NOAA in studying how marshes help protect communities by buffering wave energy from storms. Evan developed a program to measure shoreline erosion and identify areas in need of restoration. After going up and down the East Coast doing different kinds of research, Evan is finally back in Florida where he is known to dive underwater to pull up strange critters to show all his kayakers on his tours! Come along on a tour with Evan for a fun time and you will be sure learn something new!

Helen Midney

Biologist Guide

MS Environmental Science – FGCU

Research Focus: Water Quality, Aquatic Restoration, Science Communication & Interpretation

Helen is a SWFL native and recently completed her Master’s Degree at FGCU!  Her research included a study of Lake Trafford where restoration projects are working to remove exotic vegetation and introduce native vegetation to improve water quality and habitat.  When she’s not on the water, Helen works in the Immokalee Community Garden growing crops and helping to share her knowledge of horticulture with others!  With a passion for all things ecology, she loves getting out on the water for a fun time with all of our eager explorers.

Capt. Claire Charde

Biologist Guide & Captain

BS Environmental Science

Research Focus: Sea Turtle Biology, Avian Biology

Capt. Claire has worked in the Southwest Florida as a science professional for years conducting seas turtle research at the Rookery Bay Research Reserve and in Estero Bay!  She is now working in Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve conducting sea grass studies and monitoring bird population on it’s rookery islands.  Claire just lights up when we encounter wildlife and when our explorers ask great questions about this incredible place!  Her passion for wild SWFL gets her excited to share her knowledge with all our explorers, so join Claire for an adventure in the estuary!

Capt. Morgan Zeleny

Captain & Rookery Bay Education Specialist

BS Biology

Research Focus: Environmental Education, Sea Turtle Biology, Land Management

Leaving Ohio in 2018 to pursue her lifelong passion for the water and outdoors, Morgan found Rookery Bay Research Reserve as a perfect fit! Working as an Education Specialist, she has been able to share her passion for the estuary and connect young minds to this special place. Morgan is also part of the reserves’ Burn Team and assists with sea turtle monitoring throughout our Florida summers. Working as a Captain with Rising Tide Explorers has allowed
Morgan to connect all people with SWFL’s unique coastal environment. Adventure, learning, and FUN are all things you’ll walk away with once you join Morgan on the water!

Capt. Monica McKenzie

Biologist Guide & Captain

BS Environmental Science (in progress)

Research Focus: Environmental Ecology, Mangrove Ecology, Avian Biology

As a Naples native, Monica has spent her life exploring what Collier County has to offer. She is currently working on her bachelor’s in environmental studies with a minor in biology at Florida Gulf Coast University, and has a love for all creatures, but has a passion for birds. Her eyes are constantly watching for birds flying by and searching for critters throughout the mangroves! When not exploring the mangrove tunnels, Monica can be found on the beaches with the shorebirds with the Audubon, or in a mangrove forest researching their carbon storage. Ask her about the birds!

Capt. Rachael Schinbeckler

Biologist Guide & Captain

MS Environmental Science – FGCU (in progress)

Research Focus: Ichthyology, Cetology, Water Quality

Rachael has kept herself near the water ever since she moved down to Florida over 8 years ago from Indiana.  She knew she wanted be a marine biologist ever since Nemo hit the silver screens, and has since lived up to that dream! Through receiving a Bachelor’s of Science in Marine Biology from Florida International University, she has studied juvenile bull sharks, various freshwater fish in Everglades National Park, and even bottlenose dolphins.  Now she is working for her Master’s studying harmful algal blooms throughout South Florida.  As an avid scuba diver and nature fanatic, Rachael loves leaving the lab for a day on the kayaks searching for all the unique wildlife in the estuary, and will make your time on the water extraordinary!

Renee Marino

RTE Kayak Sweep

Florida Master Naturalist

Focus: Florida Coastal Ecosystems

Hailing from Massachusetts, Renee embodies the spirit of RTE through and through!  While ensuring all our paddlers are comfortable, confident, and safe, Renee uses her Master Naturalist training to point out wildlife and share amazing things about our area!  She was brought up with a Native American background and continues her connection to the community, adding to her deep appreciation for the natural world.  Renee also holds titles as a championship powerlifter, championship cycler, and the first female high school football player in the USA!  She is a blast to explore with and you can ensure you’ll feel comfortable and confident in the company of our all-star sweep Renee!

Ray "Raymundo" Boniface

RTE Kayak Sweep

BS Fisheries & Wildlife

Focus: Ichthyology, Water Quality, Trophic System Management

Coming to you from the great Midwest, Ray is a true born and raised Ohioan that has adventured all over the US of A! Having worked in the northern Appalachian Trail to studying wilderness medicine in the Rocky Mountains, Ray is one of the most diversely  knowledgeable members of the RTE family. He has also worked all the way from Isle Royal National Park to Key Largo in the Florida Keys conducting trophic level system research in brackish waters. Ray is awesome to explore and talk with on our kayak tours and will always leave you feeling more educated and appreciative of the amazing Rookery Bay! You can also sometimes catch him at our boat ramps with his trusty chocolate lab co-pilot Sydney.

Robin Serne

RTE Kayak Sweep

MA Environmental Studies – FGCU (in progress)

Focus: Coastal & Wildlife Conservation, Nonprofit Management

Robin has loved kayaking since she was young, paddling with her family on the coast of North Carolina.  After working at a wildlife hospital she decided to go back to school for her graduate degree in Environmental Studies. Robin has worked with threatened species
of native birds, volunteers with the RB shark research program, conducts debris clean ups, and educates visitors with Rookery Bay & Team Ocean. She is
currently an intern at the Calusa Waterkeeper and hopes to work at a local environmental conservation non-profit when she graduates to help protect and restore SW
Florida and wonderful ecosystems and wildlife. Come have an amazing and incredibly educated adventure with Robin on one of our kayak tours!

Heidi Clark

RTE Kayak Sweep & Kayaking Instructor

Maine Certified Kayak Guide & ACA Kayaking Instructor

It’s easy to see that Heidi loves everything to do with Southwest Florida and the great outdoors. After joining our RTE crew for a guided tour as a guest, Heidi saw that we shared in her passion for all of the above and decided to join to team! Heidi always ensures that our explorers of comfortable, confident, and having a great time on all of our adventures. She takes pride in making sure all her ‘Ducklings’ have an amazing and memorable experience kayaking the backwaters of Southwest Florida. Heidi has some seriously sharp critter spotting skills and is notorious for finding TONS of awesome creatures in the estuary for us to look at and learn about.