DAN Member Profile: Stephanie Arne
Scubapro Deep Elite Ambassador and Wyland Foundation Ambassador for the Planet Stephanie Arne has the distinction of being the first female host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. She considers diving a big part of how she came to have the job. Arne’s giant stride into the underwater world took place at Looe Key, Fla., in 2006 — only one year after she first set eyes on the ocean.
I always knew I wanted to be a wildlife educator, but I didn’t know exactly where I would find my place. I’ve worked with zookeepers, animals, conservationists, ecologists, trainers and rescuers and loved it all. I also loved teaching at the zoo and in the classroom. In diving I found a perfect opportunity to educate, and I went to work as a dive guide and whale-shark spotter in Australia.
Doing educational presentations on the boats was different because I could teach people about wildlife and then say, “OK, now let’s jump in and go see everything I just told you about.” I’m always thrilled to see people experience the feeling they inevitably get when the mysteries of the ocean world are unveiled to them. I just love watching people reach the surface and say, “I get it — I see what you were talking about — everything on the reef is connected, and now I understand how it’s like that on land, too.” [Stephanie breaks into a Disney song:] I can show you the world — I wanted to be people’s Aladdin!
Then you see animals being strangled by or choking on trash. It’s heartwrenching to see an animal struggling with something that could very well have been yours. Witnessing these things really resonated with me, and that’s why I’m so incredibly determined to teach people about plastics and the ocean. Why, for example, are we even using straws?
I think the key is to learn about how truly connected we all are — to the food web that sustains us and to that plastic. It doesn’t just affect wildlife, it ultimately affects humans as well because everything is connected. I think that’s the most important thing I can teach.