Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Founder & President, OceanCollectiv

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, conservation strategist, and Brooklyn native. She is founder and president 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.

Apart from client projects, writing, and public speaking, Ayana 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.

Ayana volunteered as co-director of partnerships for the March for Science, building 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 policymaking. 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, socio-economics, and policy of sustainably managing coral reefs. For her research, she was awarded NSF Graduate Research, NSF IGERT, Switzer Environmental, and American Association of University Women fellowships. The fish trap she invented to 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 the 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 LA Times, The Guardian, and The New York Times. 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.