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Q&A with environmental tour guide Richard Finkel

By Staff | Jan 7, 2010

Richard Finkel enjoys educating residents and visitors about the nature on the islands and in the water.

Richard Finkel is a dedicated environmental educator and tour guides on the islands. He has ignited excitement in schoolchildren while leading them on hands-on activities with sea creatures and nature. Finkel works hard to help people enjoy and better understand the world we live through astronomy and various educational boating excursions with Captiva Cruises.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in New York City, so on my tours I often kid with people and say that I grew up on a small island that is actually about the same size as Sanibel, area wise, a small island off the northeast coast called manhattan – but different types of wildlife exist there.

What brought you to the islands?

I came down to Sanibel from Maine in 1991 for an Environmental Education internship for Kristie Anders, the Education Director of The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation

What do you

appreciate most about island life?

The small town community.

We know you work for Captiva Cruises as a naturalist tour guide. What do you do specifically?

I am developing some new educational programs such as an astronomy program, a sailing and Shoreline Discovery Program and a Sea Life Encounter program. The astronomy program we are calling Sailing Under the Stars where we go out at night on our 24-passenger sailing catamaran and I discuss the features of the night sky, identify some constellations and stars, talk about celestial navigation and mysteries of the universe. On the Sailing and Shoreline Discovery program we will cruise to a secluded beach on one of the upper islands where we will use nets to go through the sea grass beds for an up close look at some of the smaller inhabitants of the back bay ecosystem and learn about the dynamic habitats of our barrier islands. The Sea Life Encounter program will be a hands-on science at sea cruise for anyone who has ever thought about or dreamed of being a marine biologist. We will haul up crap traps and a plankton net to learn about fishing techniques and what certain species of animals can tell us about the health of the ecosystem. Using scientific equipment we will measure aspects of water quality which will be used in on going Marine research of the waters around Sanibel and Captiva.

I am also helping out with existing programs with Captiva Cruises such as the lunch trips to Cabbage Key and Useppa, the Sailing Adventures and the Beach and Shelling trips to Cayo Costa.

We just finished an intensive training program for docents in conjunction with our education partner The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation and we are looking toward to new and returning docents helping us out with educational and fun filled programs such as the daily Dolphin and Wildlife Adventure Cruise.

I have also started writing a column for your sister newspaper the Island Reporter called Sanibel Stargazing which will focus on various aspects of the night sky and celestial objects.

What is your field of study?

I studied Environmental Science in College.

What inspires you the most about teaching and showing others nature?

I get inspired when I observe the enthusiasm people have for seeing and learning something new about the environment, something we might take for granted like a pelican diving down for fish or a wave crashing on the beach can be a magical sight that brings up curiosity and unlimited learning opportunities. Teaching is an excellent motivation to learn and sharing information about the natural and cultural history of our area is very rewarding.

Word on the street is you have traveled to some exotic and rugged spots of the world. Can you share a little bit about your travels?

Since we do not have mountains in Florida, when I have the time and resources I like to pursue my passion of being in the mountains, hiking and experiencing other cultures. I recently backpacked in Nepal in a section of the himalayas which was an incredible trip.