Kayak Guides

Let Our Kayak and Naturalist Guides Show You the Wonder of Northeast Florida

Our ecotour guides are certified Florida Master Naturalist Instructors through the University of Florida. They are the reason we can offer the in-depth, wide array of kayak programs that are unique to Ripple Effect Ecotours. Their diverse knowledge, backgrounds, and educations, coupled with their Florida Master Naturalists training, ensures that your ecotour will be an unforgettable experience, guided by the best of the best to ensure your safety and enjoyment.

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Chris Kelley Florida Master Naturalist Instructor - ACA Level 3 Coastal Kayak Instructor -USCG Boat Captain

Chris is the owner of Ripple Effect Ecotours. A life-long obsession with the natural world began in the remote areas of Baja, Mexico where he was introduced to off-grid, self-sufficient living in “La Frontera”, one of the last frontiers in North America. The abundance of marine life in the Sea of Cortez in contrast to the stark Baja Desert led Chris on a journey exploring the vast American landscape over the next decade by both land and sea.

After two years exploring the Florida coastlines on their 34′ sailboat, “Rift”, Chris and his wife settled into the quaint seaside town of St. Augustine, Florida. Nowhere else had they encountered such an abundance of natural beauty in the Sunshine State. Chris now teaches kayaking as an American Canoe Association Level 3 Coastal Kayak Instructor and environmental education as a University of Florida Master Naturalist Instructor.

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Eric Ziecheck Manager and Stewardship/Educational Coordinator

An implanted Floridian at the age of 6, Eric has spent the majority of his life on the beaches of both the east and west coasts of Florida. Eric has been fortunate to travel to locations all over the world, particularly the coastal areas of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He spent a great amount of time along the Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Coastal Forests). Out of these experiences, he came to appreciate each country’s lush and beautiful places. His career has led him to the Ripple with a passion for environmental education focused on natural resources. Eric believes that our youth are one of the most important natural resources for our future.

Eric is a graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science from the College of Health and Human Performance and a Master’s degree from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. He is also a Certified Coastal Master Naturalist.

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Leif Burhans Protected Species Observer

Leif graduated from UF with a Wildlife Ecology degree. During his years at UF he attended a school group that did kayaking, backpacking. and white water trips. Leif is also a graduate of the Florida Coastal Master Naturalist Program. After he graduated college he traveled the country live trapping birds of prey, shore birds, and ducks for various research projects.

Today Leif works as a Protected Species Observer. His job is to monitor whales, dolphin, turtles, birds, manatee, and sharks in a migration-protection-research. Aspects are depending on the specific project. These projects last on average 1 month.

When Leif is not doing his valuable research you can find him at Ripple Effect Ecotours guiding. Leif enjoys sharing his love of paddling and knowledge of this dynamic ecosystem with travelers from all over the world.

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Kaitlyn Campbell Environmental Educator

A 2017 graduate of Allegheny College located in Meadville, Pennsylvania, Kaitlyn began her work with the GTM Research Reserve in February, 2019. Her studies focused on freshwater ecosystems, marsh ecology, and animal psychology. After graduation, Kaitlyn moved from her home town in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Saint Augustine, Florida to work at Marineland Dolphin Adventure. There, she was exposed to animal care and informal education. Kaitlyn found her passion in primary and secondary educational programs, which brought her to the GTM Research Reserve as an Environmental Educator.

In the summer of 2019, Kaitlyn joined our team as a guide to continue educating as many environmental enthusiasts as possible.

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Kacy Rodriguez Coastal Environmentalist

Kacy graduated from Flagler college where she majored in coastal environmental science and minored in biology. Her capstone research project involved gopher tortoises habitat impacted by hurricanes at Fort Matanzas. She also presented an independent research study on primary productivity in the Matanzas river.

When Kacy isn’t kayaking she is either surfing, teaching English as a second language, or volunteering at the Whitney Lab Sea Turtle Hospital.

As a 7th generation Floridian from a long line of citrus growers Kacy has no plans to move out of Florida and will continue her studies at FGCU in the fall focusing on algae.