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Deep Teaching

Dr. Ayanna Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist, writer, policy expert and conservation strategist, knows the streets of Brooklyn; she grew up there. Early on, she traded walking shoes for water shoes, and eventually captured her PhD in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, after earning her Bachelor’s degree in environmental science and public policy at Harvard.  Currently, the former adjunct professor at NYU in the Department of Environmental Studies, is making waves as founder and president of Ocean Collectiv, a consulting firm that helps find ocean “conservation solutions grounded in social justice;”  founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for climate change and ocean conservation policy in coastal cities; co-founder of the climate initiative The All We Can Save Project; co-host of the podcast, How to Save a Planet.  Oh, she also co-invented a better fish trap for bycatch.  The creation won her and her partner $20,000.  She calls it “the better fish trap.” 

When our school-age children discover and understand the intersections of the Hudson River Estuary and other marine natural habitats with their own urban lives, Dr. Johnson and other experts like her, on land and/or at sea, will be waiting to help them navigate the Next Waves of learning.  Or at least her books will be there for full immersion into the wonders of nature and the space around us.   “I grew up in a working-class family in Brooklyn and basically the only vacation we ever could afford to go on was this one summer (age 5) when we went to (Key West) Florida. I learned how to swim and went on a glass-bottom boat trip, and I was like, “Excuse me, how come no one told me about this before: There’s a whole other world under there and I was so curious. That was the moment I thought, “Oh, this can be your job — looking underwater and understanding what’s happening. So of course I was like, “Well, I’m in. Sign me up.” I think the lesson here is just being stubborn enough to be like, “No really, I get it.  I’m a Black girls from Brooklyn.  You don’t think it’s gonna happen, but it’s going to happen.”

More on Ms. Johnson, later this spring, in Our Time Press STEM series, Stewards of the Land, Keepers of the Rivers.  (Bernice Elizabeth Green)

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