Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, conservation strategist, and Brooklyn native. She is founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice. Ayana envisions and works toward a healthy ocean that supports food security, economies, and cultures. Her clients include World Wildlife Fund, Bezos Family Foundation, XPRIZE, Pioneer Works, and Lonely Whale. She teaches at New York University as an adjunct professor and mentors next generation ocean leaders.
Previously, as executive director of the Waitt Institute, Ayana co-founded the Blue Halo Initiative and led the Caribbean’s first successful island-wide ocean zoning effort, resulting in the protection of one-third of Barbuda’s coastal waters. She then led the growth of this initiative, launching it on Curaçao and Montserrat, in partnership with the governments and stakeholders. Prior, Ayana was Director of Science and Solutions at the Waitt Foundation, managing a diverse portfolio of ocean grants. She has held policy positions in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Her volunteer work focuses on building communities. Ayana was co-director of partnerships for the March for Science, creating a coalition of over 300 organizations that inspired over 1 million people around the world to take to the streets to support the role of science in policy-making. She serves on the boards of the Billion Oyster Project and World Surf League's PURE, and is an advisor to Environmental Voter Project, Azul, Green 2.0 and Oceanic Global. To develop a local network of ocean professionals she founded Team Ocean NYC.
Ayana earned a B.A. from Harvard University in Environmental Science and Public Policy, and a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in marine biology, with a dissertation on the ecology, socio-economics, and policy of sustainably managing coral reefs. For her research, she was awarded fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Switzer Foundation, and American Association of University Women. The fish trap she invented to reduce bycatch won the first Rare/National Geographic Solution Search. She has been a resident at TED, a scholar at the Aspen Institute, and named to the Grist 50 and UCSD 40 Under 40 Alumni.
She is the proud daughter of a teacher/farmer and an architect/potter. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Outside Magazine and Nature magazine. Her op-eds have been published in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Hill, and Huffington Post. She blogs and tweets about how we can use the ocean without using it up on Scientific American, National Geographic and @ayanaeliza. You’ll find her at the nexus of science, policy, and communication, passionately advocating for coastal communities.
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