For the Love of God…and the Environment

By Amber Hester Kuehn, owner of Spartina Marine Education Charters

My mom says she never would have guessed I would grow up to love the water. I used to scream at the top of my lungs during baths, and the kiddie pool in the backyard was not an option. But she was wrong, of course—that water didn’t have salt in it!

I knew from an early age that I loved animals and the outdoors.

Wildlife Treasury Box

My parents once gave me a National Geographic Wildlife Treasury card set. Each card had a picture and description of an exotic animal. My favorite was the aye-aye. The cards came in a lime green tool box, and I received new cards in the mail each month. I remember every detail about the set, even the way it smelled—like new print. I would give anything to find it! I took notes from every card into my notebook…also gone forever. I was about 10-years-old and the closest to my true self that I would be until my 30s.


After college, I became a scuba instructor and was enamored with the underwater environment.

My best dive was by myself while working in South Florida. It was a night dive, and the divers would be in the water for about 45 minutes. I asked the captain for permission to sit under the boat. I sat in the sand and a large red starfish walked slowly by. In the meantime, a nurse shark became curious and swam close to my light. A lobster stared back at me and approached with no fear, as I had been still for 20 minutes. It was amazing.  I felt as though I could lie on the ocean floor, cuddle up to the soft, white sand and fall asleep. But, I could see the divers’ lights in the distance, and back to work I went. It was an amazing sense of comfort and peace, a feeling that has stuck with me for 16 years.

When you think of love on Valentine’s Day, you think of boy meets girl, but that’s not all there is. If you think about it, the things that you love the most are the things that don’t cost anything. Love can be found in many things and manifest itself in many ways. Love is peace and comfort that calms our souls and makes us feel happy and safe. I believe that it is so powerful that it can only come from God.

Powerful moments are personal, and everyone is different. I have experienced several, and they have a common theme. I consider these encounters in nature to be gifts of love to me from God and, each time, I was the only one in the audience. It was definitely meant for me. God may be speaking to you through the things that you love. I never know when it will happen, but I always know when it does.


I was 30-years-old and living in Maui, Hawaii. My relationship with nature was inspiring, but my dating life was not!

After several disasters, I begged God to send me someone who would be right for me. My request was very specific. I had nothing to lose, so I put it out there. I wanted someone who loved the ocean, understood my mission for the environment, was my age, smart, nice, funny and good-looking—dark hair, tall and tan.

I flew to the mainland to defend my thesis in Ft. Lauderdale, attended a Sea Turtle Symposium, visited my parents in Bluffton and then flew back to Maui.


You will never guess who I met on my first day back at work! A new boat captain at the launch—my age, smart, nice, funny, dark hair, tall and tan. He was a scuba instructor, boat captain and underwater photographer. He was impressed by the undersea world…and me. He put a ring on my finger a year later.

I brought him home with me, and now he is a Bluffton firefighter and paramedic. We have been married for 10 years. When I think back on that moment and my amazement at how literally my prayer was answered, my heart is filled with love.


This past summer, I watched fiddler crabs crossing the sand flat late one afternoon on the May River. I had never seen so many of them at once. They impressed me as they marched together across the smooth sand, wet from the outgoing tide. The males had their claws up and walked sideways in unison across the open space to the opposite haven of marsh grass. The sun was low in the sky and cast a shadow on each crab making the procession seem twice as big. I just fell in love with that moment and recall it often.

This Valentine’s Day, I don’t want chocolate. I want another powerful moment!

Me in Maui

A fourth-generation Blufftonian, Amber Kuehn is a marine biologist and owner of Spartina Marine Education Charters. She also manages Hilton Head Island’s Sea Turtle Protection Project, is an active volunteer for the SC Marine Mammal Stranding Network and performs dolphin necropsies in the field for the National Oceanic Services (NOS). In October, Amber was a featured speaker at TEDxHiltonHead. To schedule a Voyage of Discovery with Captain Amber, call (843) 338-2716 or visit