Tara Short – Founder & Director
Tara cultivated her passion for ocean life at a young age through her vivid imagination while playing in her grandparents’ swimming pool in suburban Chicago. She would snorkel & explore this pool playground, often pretending to be in oceanic waters filled with dolphins and colorful fish.
Tara turned her passion for exploration, marine life and environmental preservation in to Green Edventures in 2008. She designed this carbon-neutral, eco-adventure program to educate students and adults through travel and outdoor activity while supporting local-based businesses and conservation programs.
Through professionally guided tours, it is Tara’s mission to facilitate life-changing natural encounters to educate and inspire.
“Having facilitated over 1,000 participants on trips all over the Americas, I know firsthand the positive, life-changing effects that nature has on people,” Tara says. ” I tell people that I am a teacher and guide, but what I really am, is a matchmaker. I provide the ambiance and set the mood for people to connect with, be fascinated by, and fall in love with the ocean, the rainforest, the desert, and other amazing wild habitats, in hopes that they will want to protect them.”
When Tara is not away leading Green Edventurers’ Tours, she can be found underwater at the Shedd Aquarium as a volunteer diver on Tuesday mornings in the 90,000 gallon Caribbean Reef Exhibit.
Meet The Team
Founder & Director
Tara is heart of the Green Edventures. Each trip is designed and curated by Tara through the establishment of domestic and international partnerships with outfitters in wild-off-the-beaten path destinations. She has 20 years of experience in eco-tourism, guiding and educating students of all ages. Her passion is helping ordinary people do extraordinary things, and inspiring people to protect the planet through sustainable tourism.
Administrative & Payments Assistant
Have questions about payments? Carrie is the organization for all our administrative needs. She is the helpful person behind all of those payment reminders and requests for documentation completion. Carrie has 20+ years as bookkeeping experience and is a published author.
Kelly Van Laanen
Ready to schedule your group? Kelly coordinates group scheduling and facilitates trips as a tour leader. She has over 20+ years’ experience teaching and guiding in the outdoors and is a Becoming an Outdoors Woman Instructor since 1997. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin Stevens-Point in Natural Resource Management with an emphasis in Environmental Education/ Interpretation. Kelly likes to hunt, fish, camp, backpack, kayak, garden, forage, create soaps and lotions, snorkel, travel and spend time with her family.
Meet Your Guides
Guide / Costa Rica
Meet Pepe, your guide and future life-long friend! Pepe is a master naturalist that will reveal the story of the rainforest to you one character at a time. Instead of a few dry facts of about animals you find on the trail, Pepe will teach you how every plant, monkey, bird, insect, and reptile is connected to each other via the delicate and intricate community within the rainforest. Pepe is Costa Rican and proud of his beautiful country. His passion for sharing his knowledge of the Tico culture and the amazing symbiotic life of tropical flora and fauna is evidence of how much he loves Costa Rica. Since 1997, he has been guiding people into the rainforests of Costa Rica and Panama. Many of our guests are shocked by now much Pepe knows! — It’s almost super human!
Guide / Trinidad & Tobago
Courtenay "Bushman" Rooks, native to Trinidad, adventurer, naturalist, conservationist, explorer, ecotourism expert, with a long held desired to bring his love of nature to every person through eco adventure tourism. Courtenay guides in rock climbing, mountain biking, birding, hiking, diving, surfing, snorkeling, adventure racing, kayaking. Through personal travels in far flung places like England, Dominica, the Pacific North West of North America, the Mojave Desert, the Cerrado and Amazon of Brazil, Guyana’s Amazon, the Savanna Grande of Venezuela and mostly Trinidad and Tobago he has spent nearly 40 years studying natural history of wild places. During this time he gained knowledge, experience, respect and love for these environments and looks forward to sharing his knowledge with Green Edventures guests!
Florida Master Naturalist / Youth Environmental Alliance
Kristen is an engaging and passionate educator who leads the Florida Master Naturalist program in Broward County, Florida. She environmental and science education programs for students of all ages, and provides expertise for ecological surveys and monitoring through her non-profit Youth Environmental Alliance. She has a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, a Masters in Conservation Ecology and Wildlife Sciences, and more than 28 years in the field of ecology (marine, aquatic and terrestrial) and the management of natural areas and wildlife. Kristen’s passion is making a difference in peoples lives, to the environment and to wildlife through working and partnering with like–minded people and organizations that share her vision of promoting sustainability through self empowerment and education.
Divemaster / Fun Baja Diving & Eco-Adventures, LaPaz, Mexico
Chabelo (Pronounced Chaah Bell-O) is a Divemaster for Fun Baja Diving & Eco-Adventures based out of La Paz. Chabelo has been instructing and leading SCUBA divers for 15 years with Fun Baja and instructing snorkeling and free-diving with Green Edventures for 8 years. Our guests consistently tell us how they appreciate the care and attention he gives to everyone in the group. Chabelo is funny, playful, and loves to share everything he knows about his backyard, the Sea of Cortez and his home, La Paz. Chabelo is talented at finding marine life so participants can see the most of the reef. He is also a sea lion whisperer. With him, you will see and interact with the sea lions in a very special way. Your friends won’t believe the pictures!
Guide / Baja
Elsy (aka Alex) is a Marine Biologist from Michocan, Mexico. She is funny, energetic, and loves to share her knowledge of science with students. Students can easily relate to Elsy’s passion for all things saltwater, adventure, music, and her love of travel. She is a great role model for students, especially those interested in pursuing marine science degrees. Elsy is both educator and guide for our Sea of Cortez programs in partnership with Fun Baja, and tour leader for our Costa Rica student programs. Elsy holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Marine Biology, and a Master’s Degree in Marine Resources Management. She is the founding member of the Research and Conservation Program of the Yucatan (PICMMY). She is a PADI Rescue Diver.
Kristín Jóna Hilmarsdóttir
Guide / Icelandic Mountain Guides
Kristin (kristeen) has lived in Iceland her entire life, except for the two years she spent in the USA. Kristin loves all kinds of sports, including skiing, cross country skiing, mountain skiing, and alpine skiing and sharing her passion about Iceland with others. She is one of a small group of women who hike across Iceland over 30 days time. Additionally, she is an aesthetician and teaches Pilates. Kristin's secret to health is, "to always take the stairs." Our participants love Kristin's humor, caring guide style, and fun personality.
Guide / Uganda
Paul Tamwenya is probably one of the most interesting people you will ever meet in your life. Not only is he an expert at wildlife ID and behavior, he is sensitive to the needs of his clients. Great care and detail go into his safaris to ensure the each person is having their best experience. Paul is the principal guide for his safari company which he created in 2009, and the founder of a non-profit called Birds of a Feather which helps the children from his hometown by providing school supplies and environmental education. Paul is a graduate of tourism management with over 12 years experience guiding wildlife and birding tours in Uganda. He also provides guide training and is an inspirational speaker.
Driver Guide / Tanzania
Baraza Salaho is Tanzanian and a safari guide for over 20 years! He has worked with clients from all over the world and has a lot of knowledge that he loves to share about the parks, animals, culture and birds. -- He speaks more than 5 Tanzanian languages plus English. Baraza is the owner of his family run safari company and we are honored to have him lead the Green Edventures Tanzania Safari. He is a caring guide and strives to give each of his clients the best safari experience possible.
Guide / Alaska
After graduating from Cal State Long Beach in 1995, the mountains were calling, and Kelly went. Volunteering for the backcountry division of Denali National Park that summer, Kelly instantly fell in love with Alaska and decided to call it home for the next 25 years. Working as a mountain host for Alyeska Ski Resort, volunteering on the local Girdwood Fire Department and commercial fishing in western Alaska kept her busy until she accepted a position with the US Forest Service, managing a visitor center in Portage Valley, Alaska. After 10 years with the Forest Service, Kelly met her husband (founder of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center) and moved down the road to AWCC where she worked as the Director of Education for the next 12 years. Finally, after restoring wood bison to the wilds of Alaska, and with her husband’s retirement nearing, Kelly's family decided to move to North Idaho in the summer of 2018. She and her husband now live in Sandpoint with their 12-year-old daughter (going on 16) and their 9-year-old son who can't get enough of soccer. Kelly loves people, the great outdoors, and is always looking for adventure! She looks forward to sharing her love of Alaska and outdoor experience with Green Edventures guests.
“Green Edventures is an eco-toursim company with a mission to inspire people to protect the planet through authentic, affordable, and immersive educational adventures in semi-wild locations that get travelers up-close and on a first-name basis with the people, places, and ecosystems that are important in the places we visit.”
- To provide place-based educational content that provides travelers with a sense of place. A sense of place is and human response to a piece of land, local nature, indigenous culture, or a combination of these. A sense of place can be geographical or spiritual resulting in a familiarity, attachment, and love for the characteristics that make the destination unique. In short, we want people to love a place a much as we do!
- Influence values and behavior of travelers.
- Use outdoor skills to empower participants using a progressive approach.
- Contribute to / support local conservation efforts in the region.
About our destinations:
Off the beaten path. Places you have heard about but never thought you could experience.
About our activities:
Hands-on, authentic, progressive, tailored, and safe. We will never resell someone else’s tour. Our adventures are created specifically for the audience we are presenting to. You can expect to learn a new skill or get better at it, in a supportive environment.
About our clients:
As an educational tour company we cater to the traveler that wants a purposeful adventure. Many of our clients are beginners, but we create activities within the group that accomodate more advanced travelers as well. Often time, we ask that those with more experience and/or knowledge, share with others in the group.
99% of our clients travel with us on a group adventure. Groups give you access to activities that you would not have on your own, and instant travel buddies. Our group sizes range from 7-25 people, but average 14.
Custom Trips & Individuals:
1% of our clients (at this time) contact us to create a custom experience for a private adventure for as few as 2 and up o 25 people. This is only available on select destinations and may or may not have a formal educational component.
Food & Accommodations:
The environment is our primary focus. The food is locally sourced when possible, whole, and made fresh. Accommodations are in harmony with the environment, owned and operated by a local business or person.
Locally licensed and sourced guides will lead the activities. Guides are familiar with and adhere to eco-tourism principles.
Each location will sponsor a token species that is endangered or threatened. A small portion of the profits will go toward a non-profit that is working to educate people to protect that species. All trips are carbon neutral via carbon offsets and responsible use of fossil fuels. A $10 per person fee will be paid to CarbonFund.org at the end of the calendar year.
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