5 Black Environmentalists Paving the Way for a Clean Future

For 20 years, Sherpani has been dedicated to making great handbags at approachable prices. But we’ve also embraced 2 more important missions: empowering women and removing plastic from our oceans. 


In recognition of Black History Month, we’d like to highlight some black women whose ocean conservation efforts are an inspiration and hopeful for the future of our society, and of our planet. 

1. Kristal Ambrose - Founder & Director, Bahamas Plastic Movement

Kristal Ambrose — also known as “Kristal Ocean” — is an environmental scientist studying marine debris and plastic pollution in The Bahamas. After sailing across the Pacific Ocean in 2012 to study the Western Garbage Patch, Kristal was inspired to return home to The Bahamas to spark a plastic pollution revolution. 

Her career in the environmental field spans a decade. She is the founder and director of Bahamas Plastic Movement (BPM), a non-profit organization geared towards raising awareness and finding solutions to plastic pollution. In 2014, she received the Environmental Youth Leader Award from The Government of The Bahamas for her efforts in the field. 

In December 2016, she attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at Gannon University in Erie, PA with a focus on Environmental Science, Biology and Education. At Dalhousie University, she aims to establish a marine debris management plan for her country. 

Kristal’s hope for the future: A universal and divine connection between every individual on this planet and our Earth systems. I hope that we are able to reclaim the shared history of our ancestors who lived in accordance with the land and the sea. I hope we realize that without the “Big Blue,” there’s no me or you. We protect what we love, and we love through connection, and I believe this is the cure for apathy.”

2. Danni Washington - TV Personality, Science Communicator, & Ocean Advocate

Miami native with Jamaican heritage, Danni Washington is deeply passionate about our oceans and science communications. She dreamed of studying the oceans since she was six years old and that passion has fueled her work as a TV host, thought leader, public speaker, and more. 

Currently, Danni is the host of The Genius Generation a new podcast focused on young people behind an incredible invention, entrepreneurial pursuit, or discovery using science. Danni was also featured as a correspondent in season one of a weekly nationally syndicated CBS series called Mission Unstoppable with host Miranda Cosgrove who is also co-Executive Producer alongside fellow actor Geena Davis. 

Danni has also hosted Xploration Nature Knows Best on FOX and Amazon Prime, a STEM educational TV series that featured the latest advancements in bio-inspired technology and design — making her the first African-American woman to host her own science television series. 

Danni’s hope for the future: “Regardless of their background, skin color, or economic status, every single child on this planet deserves the opportunity to explore the wonders of the ocean. Now, it doesn’t have to just be in person—it can also be virtual—but there are so many opportunities for kids to understand the world around them, and I believe that having access to the ocean like this will help build empathy for the ocean, but also empathy for each other.”

3. Amani Webber-Schultz - Co-founder, Minorities in Shark Sciences


Currently Amani is running The Minorities in Shark Sciences program to help make Oceanography more welcoming and accessible to women of color. She is also pursuing a PhD in biology focusing on Shark morphology and bio-inspired robots. 

Amani has a background in marine sciences with a focus in elasmobranch and fish biology and morphology as well as undergraduate experience in paleoceanography.

 Amani’s hope for the future: I hope to see a planet with oceans whose resources are plentiful and used to the benefit of everyone. This would take nations addressing and changing their use of ocean resources. This would take people listening to how others need to use the ocean to survive, and everyone coming together to create policies that benefit everyone and alienate no-one.”

4. Stephany Macdonald - Marine Biologist and Conversationalist

Stephany is a marine biologist and conservationist who founded a non-profit organization called The Kaimu Initiative to encourage environmental equity and inspire underrepresented groups to become environmental stewards through the use of social media and visual educational content. she has also been a resident editor for Women in Ocean Science since its inception.

As a tropical marine ecologist, Stephany has spent countless hours surveying the reef and measuring diversity. Biodiversity measures help us to understand the health of an ecosystem. A diverse landscape provides vast environmental services and is indicative of an ecosystem that can recover from environmental challenges. 

Despite the focus of biodiversity in our work, we lack equity, diversity and inclusion in the workforce. In the United States, Black or African American students represented only 1.95% of graduates in Earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences.”

5. Shellby Johnson - Marine Conservationist & Science Communicator

Shellby is a NOAA John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow, her experience and studies in the marine field taught her early on that there is (and has been for a while) an inevitable tension between society and the marine and coastal environment. 

With that understanding, she has pursued opportunities that have allowed her to examine, process, communicate, and provide solutions to those tensions in various ways. Shellby hopes to have a career where she can continue to engage in and lead efforts that produce the answers and actions needed to effectively manage this dynamic.

Professional Interests/Background: Sustainable Marine/Coastal Tourism (particularly within National Marine Sanctuaries and protected areas); Coastal Resilience/Management; Science Communication; Marine Policy. 

Shellby’s hope for the future: “I hope that the combination of all our blips spent on this blue planet will have left our oceans in a state of rejuvenation and moved them away from a state of deterioration. To realize this, we will have to continue to work on ourselves and how we view the ecosystem services given to us by our oceans, as they are far from infinite and more fragile than many realize. And we’ll have to continue to expand what voices are heard and highlighted in the field of marine conservation, of which Black voices are growing and becoming increasingly more important. So, let’s make these next year’s count—because we only get one planet, and we only get one life.”

Join Us in Creating a Clean Future

We love what these women continue to do for our oceans and ecosystems. They’re among many conservationists paving the way for a cleaner world. 

But you don’t have to stand on the side lines! Join these incredible women in the fight to keep plastics out of the ocean.

Learn more about getting involved in The Blue Verve Project now >

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