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Meet Danni Washington

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danni Washington.

Danni, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve been dreaming of studying the ocean since I was six, so graduating from the University of Miami with a B.Sc. in Marine science/biology in 2008 was a dream come true. At 21, I co-founded a non-profit called Big Blue & You with my mom Michelle Swaby-Smith. Big Blue & You is all about educating youth on marine conservation through arts and science.

I’m proud to say I was the first African-American/woman of color to host a science television series, Xploration Nature Knows Best on FOX. Since then, I have hosted other STEM shows including Science the $#!* Out Of It for Facebook Watch, Strange Evidence on Discovery and I’m also currently a featured correspondent on the CBS series Mission Unstoppable, hosted by Miranda Cosgrove.

I’m also a passionate scuba diver, stand-up paddleboarding enthusiast and the original Mocha Mermaid. It’s so exciting to be able to inspire and educate young people because they are our future! That is really what drives me in every new project that I take on.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
When I started at the University of Miami, I was one of the only woman of color in my marine science program. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and science communication have traditionally been very male-dominated fields, so it was hard to break into my current career, especially as a woman of color. I’m happy to say I’ve seen great strides being made recently and I’m very grateful to be a part of that larger movement to include more diverse voices in STEM.

My passion for the ocean and sharing that with others have led me to where I am today, and I’m so happy for the opportunities that I’ve had and created. I’m hoping to share those with other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) so that we get more diversity everywhere, but especially in various STEM fields. It’s my goal to inspire young girls to follow their passions and to show that they can do anything they want! Representation in the media is a massive part of that goal because if you can see it, you can be it. I’m hoping that by being a science communicator and television host, that I can inspire young people everywhere to follow their dreams. I wish I would have seen that representation when I was growing up, so it’s my dream to serve as a role model for our next generation.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
My main passion is to educate our youth to create a better world and to take care of our oceans! I love to do that as a science communicator and TV host. I love how STEM-related programming is able to reach such a wide viewership!

I also love to organize in-person events to really connect with kids through the Big Blue & You which is a nonprofit I co-founded with my mother. Our annual Art by the Sea festival provides kids a chance to interact face-to-face with local marine scientists and artists who care about the ocean. My mom and I designed this fun-filled event eight years ago to drive our community’s love for our ocean using science and art.

I’m also currently working on expanding my lifestyle brand as the original Mocha Mermaid. By donning my mermaid tail, I’ve found an amazing and magical way to connect with youth and generate curiosity about our ocean! I’m also hosting an upcoming podcast called 21st Century Mermaids, featuring various women and nonbinary people who work in ocean conservation.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
I believe my passion for the ocean has truly pushed me to find innovative and high-profile ways to make change. We can’t sit still and just expect change to happen, we have to fight for it! I also know that I can’t do this alone, so I’m using my understanding of life beneath the waves and science communication to reach as many people as possible.

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