Ayana Elizabeth Johnson's Headshot

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Marine Biologist and Conservation Strategist - Panelist Blurb

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. Her new venture is Ocean Policy Lab, a think tank focused on coastal cities. She also holds appointments as an adjunct professor at New York University, as a science scholar at Pioneer Works, and mentors next generation ocean leaders.

Previously, as executive director of the Waitt Institute, Johnson 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 has held policy positions in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Johnson’s volunteer work focuses on building community. She was co-director of partnerships for the March for Science, creating a coalition of over 300 organizations that inspired more than 1 million people around the world to take to the streets to support the role of science in policymaking. To develop a local network of ocean professionals, she founded Team Ocean NYC.

Johnson 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. She has been a resident at TED, a scholar at the Aspen Institute, and named to the Grist 50 and UC San Diego 40 Under 40 Alumni.

Johnson 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, and Nature. She is a passionate advocate for coastal communities and builds solutions for ocean justice and our climate crisis.