Fans of science fiction are no doubt familiar with the opening lines of Star Trek: “Space, the final frontier…To boldly go where no one has gone before.” But, in our frenzied enthusiasm to explore other worlds, we may have neglected our own. Space is certainly a frontier, but to hear Danni Washington tell it, we should be looking somewhere much closer to home first.
“With the ocean, it’s such a mystery because we’ve only explored between 5-7 percent of it,”she says. “We’re so interested in getting to outer space, which I love, but we haven’t even explored our inner space yet…For me, that should be our priority because if we understand how the ocean works, I think we’ll understand ourselves even more.”
Only just now approaching 30, Washington has already accomplished a great deal. Newly graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied marine biology, she started her own non-profit, Big Blue & You, which aims to inspire kids to appreciate the ocean through celebrations and festivals (“because we know,” she says, “if you love something, you’ll protect it.”). Since then, she’s gained more than a decade’s worth of experience as a science communicator.
Her involvement in these pursuits has lent it itself well to her latest role as the host of Fox’s Xploration Nature Knows Best, a show about biomimicry and how our technology is influenced by what we find in nature. The show, now going into its second season, has allowed Washington to travel around the country while realizing her dream of being a science communicator – in her own words, someone who acts as a bridge between the scientists buried in data and the general public.
“I was really inspired to become a science communicator because I realized there were so many people I would meet every day that are out of touch with nature,” she says. “They didn’t quite see all the real connections that are there.” At that point, her mission became to show people those connections by acting as a voice for nature.
If it isn’t already clear, Danni Washington loves the ocean. In a video on her YouTube channel, you can see the joy in her face as she hangs off the side of a boat, pointing into the water behind her. “We’re here off the coast of Cancún, and there are whale sharks right next to us,” she says, smiling. “They’re so beautiful, I’m so excited to be here.”
As we spoke, it became obvious to me that that excitement is a permanent fixture in Washington’s life, driving her to inspire interest in ocean conservation. It can be felt in her performance on Xploration Nature Knows Best and in her efforts to make The Big Blue & You a success as she works to show people the hidden connections she sees all around us.
“There is no escaping how we impact one another, and water is usually the conduit for making that happen,” she says, drawing into her tone a hint of seriousness that, despite her usual cheery air, betrays the gravity of what she’s saying. “That’s why I believe in getting more people connected to the ocean. And not just the ocean, but our rivers, lakes and streams because all of it is one body, and we have to keep it clean because without it we won’t survive.”
This undeniable truth that “water is life” is one of the major reasons Danni Washington is so passionate about the ocean; not only does it cover 3/4 of our planet, but it also provides 70 percent of our oxygen, sustains our climates, and provides food for the billions of people on Earth. That’s why Washington is working so hard to impart her passion to kids.
“That’s the undertone of everything that I do,” she says. “I want to inspire people, especially young people, to fall in love with nature, or fall in love with our planet, and then in turn do everything that they can to take action to protect what we have and create a more sustainable future.”
As online and visual media have become increasingly popular tools for spreading knowledge about science, an opportunity to share her passion on a national television show like Xploration Nature Knows Best is a godsend for Danni Washington because it allows her to widen her audience and spread awareness.
She’s confident that the younger generation has the will and the determination to see what the problems are concerning our world today – not just ocean conservation, but also climate change and the quality of our air.
“I’m so excited about the kids that are stepping up, doing what they can with what they have…looking at the fact that we’re inheriting a planet that has a lot of problems to solve,” she says. “But that’s one of the most exciting things because it calls for innovation, it calls for creativity, and thinking outside of the box. And I know that this generation is totally capable of doing that.”
Visit The Big Blue & You to find out how you can get involved in ocean conservation. If you want to see Danni in action, the second season of Xploration Nature Knows Best will be airing on Fox later this year, and if you want to catch up on the first season, you can find it on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Photos courtesy of Raul Barcelona and Beth Davidow.