Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist who makes ripple effects with her advocacy and policy work. When she isn’t leading initiatives to save coastal waters or inspiring students in her classroom at NYU, she is writing about how science and policy can protect coastal communities for National Geographic’s blog, Scientific American, and other national outlets. She’s also been on the front lines for science, most recently as part of the national committee for the March for Science in Washington, D.C. Ayana has held policy positions at the Natonal Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The fish trap she invented to reduce bycatch won the first Rare/National Geographic Solution Search, and is not required by law in several countries. She also led the Caribbean’s first successful ocean zoning Initiative as Executive Director of the Waitt Institute.
In 2016, Ayana was an inaugural member of the TED Residency program, as well as an Aspen Institute Ideas Scholar. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and Nature magazine. Don’t be surprised if this proud Brooklyn native bursts into jazz song during one of her highly accessible and infectious talks. She’s known, not just for her conviction about life under the sea, but her zest for life outside of it.
The need for environmental justice extends to the coastline and into the sea. Ocean conservation is a social justice issue.
The ocean would be just fine without us - in fact, it would be better off. But the opposite is unequivocally untrue. Put simply, we need the ocean.