Growing up on Lemon Bay in Charlotte County, Ryan Orgera fell in love with Southwest Florida’s nature. But it was only after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in romance language in literature— and teaching French and Italian at the university level for eight years— that he chose to earn a Ph.D. in geography and environmental sciences and become a conservationist. Today, he serves as CEO of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF).

“I work in conservation because I care deeply about the outcomes. Before starting with SCCF, I worked on the Ending Illegal Fishing Project and Global Shark Conservation teams with The Pew Charitable Trusts,” he says. “During my time with Pew, I helped ensure global protections for 13 species of sharks and rays.”

As a Knauss Marine Policy fellow in the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Orgera served as the senator’s ocean, coastal and flood insurance policy expert. He was also a member of the Federal Marine Protected Area Advisory Committee, which advises the U.S. secretaries of Commerce and Interior.

What are your future aspirations?

I am laser-focused on making sure my son and all future generations have healthy nature to revere and enjoy. My only future aspiration is moving the needle toward balance in our social/political interactions with nature.