Founded by Miami’s South Florida Kayak Fishing Club on 10th May 2013, Mother Ocean Day is a relatively new celebration to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the ocean. Falling within a couple days of Mother’s Day in the US, the LTO team felt inspired to reflect on some awesome mother-daughter duos in ocean conservation!
Having co-founded the amazing Big Blue & You with her mother Michelle in Miami (the home of Mother Ocean Day!) when she was just 21, we thought what better way to celebrate today than by chatting to ocean advocate and all round sci-comm superstar, Danni Washington!
At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be involved in ocean conservation?
When I was about 6 years old, I learned what it meant to study marine biology and fell in love with the idea of exploring the ocean. When I turned 17, I embarked on my first trip without my parents overseas to South Africa to assist with a graduate research project focused on predation patterns of great white sharks. From that point forward, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting the ocean and amplifying stories about nature that inspire others to take action for the planet.
How did parent figures inspire or support your ambitions when you were a child?
Both of my parents played a major role in inspiring my childhood ambitions despite the fact they decided to part ways when I was around 3 years old. My mom always encouraged me to cultivate my passions and express my creativity freely while my dad focused on practical skill sets like goal setting. Each of my parents offered me two vastly different perspectives about life and their contrasting world views provided a much broader opportunity to forge my own path. I believe life is all about balance and each person interprets their experiences in different ways so it’s crucial to listen to a wide variety of ideas.
Tell us about Big Blue & You: Why did you decide to set it up with your mother?
Throughout my childhood and teen years living with my mom, we constantly volunteered at various animal shelters, participated in beach clean ups and rescued injured animals. My love for wildlife was definitely encouraged by my mom and we’ve always worked as a team to protect other living things. She also taught me the importance of paying it forward and uplifting others who need support.
With those two combined passions for people and nature, we forged the idea to create Big Blue & You together in an effort to serve our community and the natural world on a bigger scale. When I completed my Bachelor’s degree in marine science & biology at the University of Miami, I won an online video competition hosted by Roxy the surf brand in 2008 which awarded me with $10K which we used to establish and fund Big Blue & You. The combination of my mom’s business acumen and my ocean conservation knowledge proved to be a worthwhile partnership that has been a significant part of our life’s work for the last 12 years. It has truly been a trial and error process learning how to best serve the communities we serve. We’re grateful to still be able to collaborate.
What’s it like working as a mother-daughter team?
I love working with my mom because there are no questions about loyalty and intention. I know for a fact that my mom always has my back and I have her back as well. Of course, there are many ups and downs when working with any family member. The reason is your family or next of kin generally knows what makes you tick and the nuanced personality traits that most friends, acquaintances or colleagues might not be aware of. So, things can get intense sometimes, but we’ve learned how to be more patient with each other when communication becomes unclear. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart to embark on this type of journey with family. But I always think about the power of partnership between women, especially a mother and daughter. I think it’s a special and unique bond that can be a force of nature when it works. I feel inspired by celebrity mother-daughter duos like Beyoncé and her mom Tina, who’ve also consistently demonstrated the magic that comes with this type of collaboration.
What is your hope for future generations when it comes to experiencing and protecting the oceans?
My hope is that every child is given the opportunity to learn how to swim and have positive experiences in the ocean, either in real life or through virtual/augmented reality. Forging a genuine connection and admiration for the ocean is the first step toward protecting the Big Blue. We need humanity to recognize the fact our lives depend on the health of the ocean. Whether someone is drinking fresh water or swimming in saltwater, clean water is a human right. All water is connected. It’s also important that the ocean is accessible for EVERYONE no matter where they are from, what language they speak, how much money they have or the color of their skin.
And finally…with Mother Ocean Day originating in Miami to celebrate the beauty and wonder of the ocean, what is it about the ocean that makes it so special to you?
Like women, the ocean is the place that births life like a mother’s womb and nourishes all of us on this planet. In my eyes, the ocean is a physical representation of the divine feminine and subconscious. There are still many mysteries beneath the waves which require ingenuity, patience, and innovation to uncover. I truly believe that both women and the ocean hold the keys to many solutions that can help us resolve the climate crisis. Water is the most powerful element in nature, with the power to heal and the power to destroy.
As the saying goes, we don’t inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Whether or not we’re able to foster strong relationships with our own family, ALL of us have the power and responsibility within to change the world and protect our Mother Ocean.
Happy Mother Ocean Day!
Written by Lily Holbrook