Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, PH.D.

Founder & CEO, Ocean Collectiv

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To invite Ayana to speak, contact Emily Pidgeon at Fresh Speakers.


  • — Ocean policy
  • — Community engagement and faciliation
  • — Science communication
  • — Public speaking and moderating
More information at www.ayanaelizabeth.com.

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.


Science Studios at Pioneer Works (science scholar, event curator), 2018

Lonely Whale's Tick Tock campaign (researcher, writer, advisor), 2018

XPRIZE Big Ocean Button Challenge (competition designer), 2017

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

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

[For full list of projects see www.ayanaelizabeth.com/projects.]


Huffington Post, Our Health Depends On The Health Of The Ocean — And The Ocean Is Sick, August 2018

Los Angeles Times, What the Trump administration doesn’t understand about ocean conservation, January 2018

Scientific American, 6 Ways to Be an Environmental Hero at the Beach, June 2018

Scientific American, 7 Award-Winning Apps Launch a Mobile Age for the Ocean Economy, February 2018

National Geographic blog, Using Data to Democratize Ocean Philanthropy, February 2018

National Geographic blog, Top 20 Ocean Conservation Wins of 2017, January 2018

[For full list of publications seewww.ayanaelizabeth.com/writing.]


Condé Nast Traveler (podcast): The Women Saving Our Oceans, 2018

TED Ideas blog: What plastic item would you love to ban? 15 ocean experts (and TED speakers) tell us, 2018

CNBC's On the Money (TV): How straws go from your cup to becoming a 'really big' environmental problem, 2018

Salon.com Talks (video): Discussing Marine National Monuments, 2018

Time (video), A New Generation of Oceanographers, 2017

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

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

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

[For full list of press see www.ayanaelizabeth.com/press.]


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.

Johnson AE, Cinner J, Hardt M, Jacquet J, McClanahan T, and Sanchirico J. 2013. Trends current understanding and future research priorities for artisanal coral reef fisheries research. Fish and Fisheries 14(3): 281-292

Johnson, AE. 2011. Fish, Fishing, Diving, and the Management of Coral Reefs. Dissertation for PhD in Marine Biology PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD.

Johnson, AE. 2010. Reducing bycatch in coral reef trap fisheries: escape gaps as a step towards sustainability. Marine Ecology Progress Series 415: 201-209.

[For full list of scientific publications see www.ayanaelizabeth.com/writing.]