• Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D.

Founder, Ocean Collectiv

linkedin | twitter | instagram | youtube

To inquire about bringing Ayana to speak, contact her agency Fresh Speakers.


  •      - Ocean zoning/marine spatial planning
         - Fisheries management
         - Community engagement
         - Science communication
         - Public speaking and moderating

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, and conservation strategist. She is founder of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice. She also teaches at New York University as an adjunct professor and volunteered 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 instigating, 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 and The New York Times. S She blogs and tweets about how we can use the ocean without using it up on the National Geographic blog and @ayanaeliza.


Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative (initiative co-founder, WI executive director & board member, ) , 2013-2016 

March for Science (co-director of partnerships), 2017

World Ocean Festival (science advisor, speaker curator/moderator), 2017    

Foundation Center's FundingtheOcean.org (rollout strategy consultant), 2017

XPRIZE Big Ocean Button Challenge (creator of competition guidelines), 2017     


Scientific American, We Need to Kick our Addiction to Plastic, October 2017

Scientific American, In a Time of Hurricanes, We Must Talk about Environmental Conservation, October 2017

National Geographic blog, Will the Ocean Ever Run Out of Fish?, August 2017

National Geographic blog, Climate, Oceans, the United Nations, and What’s Next, June 2017

Scientific American, I Never Thought I'd Be Marching for Science, April 2017

National Geographic blog, How to use the Ocean Without Using it Up, February 2017

National Geographic blog, Top 10 Ocean Conservation Victories of 2016, January 2017

The Guardian, Op-Ed The Key to Halting Climate Change: Admit We Can’t Save Everything, February 2016

Outside, Meet the Most Influential Marine Biologist of Our Time, August 2017 

ABC News, Why whales are returning to New York City's once polluted waters 'by the ton', August 2017

Refinery 29, Why We Need The World Ocean Festival Now More Than Ever, June 2017

New York Times, Scientists and Activists Look Beyond the March for Science, April 2017

Observer, Meet the Brooklyn-Born Marine Biologist Co-Leading the ‘March for Science’, April 2017

Politico, New York Playbook interview with Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, April 2017

WNYC, The Brian Lehrer Show, Scientists Take D.C., April 2017

2 Scientists podcast: March for Science Special -- The Advocate, April 2017


Hind EJ, Alexander SM, Green SJ, Kritzer JP, Sweet MJ, Johnson AE, Amargós FP, Smith NS and Peterson AM. 2015. Fostering effective international collaboration for marine science in small island states. Frontiers in Marine Science 2:86.

Johnson AE, and Jackson JBC. 2015. Fisher and diver perceptions of coral reef degradation and implications for sustainable management. Global Ecology and Conservation. 3: 890-899. (Link to high-res version.)

Johnson AE and Saunders D. 2014. Time preferences and the management of coral reef fisheries. Ecological Economics. 100: 130-139.