Ashlan Cousteau is combining her passions for storytelling and the environment into a dream STEM career.
She didn’t plan to be an environmental journalist and conservation advocate. The University of North Carolina School of Journalism graduate started out at as entertainment journalist. She was an anchor and correspondent at E! News for seven years. Then she met Philippe Cousteau, grandson of legendary oceanic explorer Jacque Cousteau.
“I went to go hear a speech about the BP oil spill, and he was giving the talk. Honestly, our eyes met across the room, and it was love at first sight. We’ve been together ever since,” she says.
The couple married in 2014. They have a nearly two-year-old daughter, Vivienne, and now Cousteau is pregnant with baby number two.
When she met her future husband, Cousteau was inspired by his passion for the environment. Around that time, she started looking for more purpose in her career.
“I really started thinking, ‘How can I take something like the ocean or environmentalism and how can I make it more fun, for lack of a better word,’” she explains. “’How can I make it more pop culture? How can I make it appeal to more people?’”
Cousteau started attending ocean conferences and realized she saw the same people over and over. She knew a bigger movement was needed and decided she wanted to share environmental stories with a consumer audience.
Since then, she’s served as host for the UN’s Convention on Migratory Species in Quito, Ecuador, and was selected by former vice president Al Gore to be the opening anchor for his international live broadcast “24 Hours of Reality” in 2015. In addition, she’s a leading voice for environmental issues on Capitol Hill.
At first, she was nervous about combining her journalism career with her passion for the environment. But she credits her husband with helping her gain confidence.
The couple co-hosted “Nuclear Sharks” for Discovery’s Shark Week. They also co-hosted the Travel Channel’s “Caribbean Pirate Treasure.” STEM was a big part of the show, whether viewers realized it or not.
“On the outside, it was about looking for treasure. But really, in the show, we were studying history, we were having to look at the way weather charts, talking about weather and talking about storms, talking about invasive species and plastic pollution,” she says. “It really is interesting. The power of storytelling and the power of entertainment can literally be applied to anything, and it can make anything fun and exciting.”
During the pandemic, the couple wrote a book about ocean literacy, Oceans for Dummies. She says there’s so much for everyone to learn about the sea and marine life. For example, she was fascinated to learn how cuttlefish mate, leaving their eggs and always going back to the same place every year. Scientist still don’t know what the cuttlefish do the rest of the time.
“That’s so exciting,” says Cousteau. “With the computers that we have at our fingertips, we feel like we know everything, but there’s so much that we don’t know, specifically about our ocean.”
Adventures in storytelling
The adventurous husband and wife are focused on presenting scientific information in an interesting and easy-to-understand way.
“That makes people want to learn more, rather than just telling them a bunch of facts,” she says. “But to make it exciting and adventurous and to communicate science in a way that’s fun, that’s what gets me excited personally. That’s what gets most people excited, specifically in STEM.”
Cousteau loves being a storyteller and says we all have a story to tell. She encourages other women to share their respective experiences and knowledge without second-guessing themselves. “We just need to have the confidence to go after our goal because that’s when we change the world,” she says.
The adventurous husband and wife are focused on presenting scientific information in an interesting and easy-to-understand way through their nonprofit EarthEcho.