In the winter of 1997 three high school buddies, Shane Ziegler, Jose Hernandez, and Max Sparwasser, were roasting oysters over a cedar fire on Capers Island when the three of them came up with the idea of forming Barrier Island Eco Tours. The 23 year olds had spent much of their youth boating the tidal creeks of the Charleston area fishing, shrimping, crabbing, and exploring the undeveloped barrier islands. They felt that visitors to Charleston were missing out on the best part of the lowcountry, its undeveloped barrier islands and back creek salt marshes. They wanted to expose people to Capers Island and its surrounding salt marsh ecosystem, but in an informative way so guests left with a greater respect and appreciation of this remarkably unspoiled place.
In the summer of 1997, after receiving permission from the SCDNR to take visitors to Capers Island, Hernandez and Ziegler began business taking educational nature tours to Capers on a 6 passenger boat. In 1998 they bought the Callinectes, a Coast Guard Certified 40 passenger tour boat. Two years later they added a 23 ft. fishing boat for inshore fishing charters. Two years after that, a 16 passenger skiff outfitted for smaller customized eco-tours, kayaking, and fishing excursions was added to the fleet. The Barrier Island EcoTour excursion boats now include two 49 and a 19 passenger pontoon boats ( Caretta, Delphinus, and Sayana), the 16 passenger Carolina Skiff (Marsh Mama), and the 6 passenger bay boat (Cut Mullet).
Barrier Island EcoTours is now owned and managed by Shane and his wife Morgan. The business is supported by an incredible staff of naturalists and captains in which many have been employed for near 10 years or more. If you call, most likely you will be greeted by Ben Edwards who has been involved in the business since 2002.
Shane is originally from Atlanta and spent his summers vacationing with his family on the Isle of Palms. Pulling seine nets in the tidal creeks, crabbing, and fishing with his family while they were on vacation sparked his deep interest for marine biology. Shane and his family moved to the Isle of Palms the summer before his freshman year at Wando High School. During his high school years on Isle of Palms, Shane spent the majority of his free time exploring the salt marsh, fishing, crabbing, shrimping, and roasting oysters with his friends on small hammock islands. Julie Cliff, his Marine Biology teacher at Wando, further inspired his passion in the marine world.
During his summer internship in 1995 while attending Clemson University, he worked in four different South Carolina State Parks including Hunting Island State Park. At Hunting Island he realized the naturalist position was exactly what he wanted to pursue as a career. After graduating Clemson with a Bachelor of Science degree in Resource Management, Shane began his career as a naturalist at Hunting Island as an assistant to Mike Walker, head naturalist at the park. Shane enjoyed working at Hunting Island for two years performing sea turtle research and barrier island and salt marsh ecology programs for visitors and school groups. At the end of 1997 he left Hunting Island to pursue his own business, Barrier Island Eco Tours, with Jose Hernandez.
Shane now operates Barrier Island Eco Tours with his wife Morgan. They are able to run a small business and still find free time of their own for fishing, island exploring, or just relaxing on the house boat together with their dog Emma.
Morgan grew up in Columbia, SC and visited the Carolina coast every year with her parents and grandparents. As a child and young adult, she was fascinated with the sea and the animals that lived in it. She loved swimming in the ocean and hunting for sharks teeth and shells with her Grandmother on the beach. Her passion for the marine world, and spending time in nature grew with her.
Morgan later attended Clemson University with a major in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. Morgan chose Travel and Tourism as her emphasis area in PRTM, and became very interested in the growing trend of eco tourism around the world. She decided for her summer internship to pursue eco tourism in the Charleston area, and luckily acquired an internship with Barrier Island Eco Tours the summer before graduating from Clemson. She fell in love with the business and Charleston’s coast that summer, and decided to move to the area after graduating in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science. She continued to work with Barrier Island Eco Tours in the summers, and began a career in event and wedding planning in downtown Charleston.
While working with the company, Morgan and her dog Emma, also fell in love with Barrier Island Eco Tour’s owner Shane Ziegler. Morgan and Shane are now married, live in Mt. Pleasant, and are running the business together. She enjoys spending time in the outdoors, fishing, biking, boating and being with friends and family.
I am Robert Hopkins and I was born in Mount Pleasant. I was the youngest of six kids so I sought refuge in the woods. the fields, and marshlands of this area. I spent most of my childhood weekends going out to Capers Island with my family and friends. I graduated from college and began teaching in the elementary school I had attended as a child. After 15 years of teaching fourth and fifth grade I began working with Barrier Island EcoTours and it has been a dream come true. I have really enjoyed getting to know about the critters creatures of this area and all of the intricate interconnections of the ecosystem. Being able to share that with others is a real joy. My son got to grow up working on boats with me and now at the age of 25 with the captains license he has returned to work for us since college. I feel really blessed to be visiting the island that I visited throughout my childhood on a daily basis, sharing it with visitors to the area.
Kelsey is currently a graduate student working towards her Masters in Environmental Studies at the College of Charleston. She completed her undergraduate degree at Clemson University (GO TIGERS!), and is dedicated to coastal conservation. Her research focuses on the blue crab fishery in the grand state of South Carolina, specifically quantifying the impact of recreational fishing on the current blue crab population. Additionally, she is looking at the ecosystem dynamics in the face of climate change, and how abiotic stressors due to climate change may impact the blue crab population in the SEUS. She loves the outdoors and her dog Hobbes (like Calvin and Hobbes, coincidentally her favorite comic of all time). She can’t wait for you to get on our boats and learn about this awesome ecosystem!
Dolphin Pointer/Fishing Guide
Emma was a lost puppy found on Hwy. 76 in Anderson, S.C. when she was just 3 months old. By luck and fate she found a home with Morgan who was attending Clemson University at the time. Emma and Morgan did a lot of hiking to waterfalls, mountain biking and camping in the upstate.
Emma was very excited to move to Charleston with Morgan after leaving Clemson, and now lives in Mt. Pleasant with her Mom and Dad. She enjoys fishing with Shane (especially sharks); running on the beach, chasing squirrels, lots of treats and belly rubs. Princess Emma is the best Dolphin Pointer around and she would love to see you on a boat trip soon!