Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, and conservation strategist. She is founder and principal of Ocean Collectiv, a consulting group that creates and amplifies solutions for a healthy ocean, while centering social justice. She teaches at New York University, as an adjunct professor, and volunteers as co-director of partnerships for the March for Science.
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 project, 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, and held policy positions in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Ayana earned a BA 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 and socio-economics of sustainably managing coral reefs. She was awarded NSF Graduate Research, NSF IGERT, Switzer Environmental, and American Association of University Women fellowships for her research. The fish trap she invented to reduce reduce bycatch won the first Rare/National Geographic Solution Search.
In 2016, Ayana was an inaugural member of the TED Residency program, as well as an Aspen Institute Scholar. She is also a jazz-singing, dance party instigator, Brooklyn native, and proud daughter of a retired teacher/current farmer and a retired architect/current potter. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and Nature magazine. Her op-eds have been published in The Guardian, Scientific American, and The New York Times. She writes about how we can use the ocean without using it up on her National Geographic blog and @ayanaeliza.