Developing policy solutions for coastal cities is complex, urgent, and inherently multi-disciplinary. Thus, our founding team represents expertise in science, policy, politics, design, community building, and communications. This convergence of complementary expertise is our magic. As we expand our team and form partnerships, we will continually broaden and deepen the scope of skills represented.
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D.
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, Brooklyn native. She is founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm for conservation solutions, and founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank focused on coastal cities. She also holds appointments as an adjunct professor at New York University and a science scholar at Pioneer Works. 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. Previously, she worked on ocean policy at the EPA and NOAA, and was a leader of the March for Science. 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. She is a passionate advocate for coastal communities, and builds solutions for ocean justice and our climate crisis. Find her @ayanaeliza. (For more see ayanaelizabeth.com.)
Dr. Johnson lays out the rationale for founding Urban Ocean Lab in this NY Times oped: Ocean Protection is an Urban Issue.
Marquise Stillwell, the founder and principal of Openbox, created a company that represents a culmination of more than 20 years of experience in designing and implementing fresh models for businesses and cultural organizations. The Openbox vision is, above all, human-centered: focusing on improving the lives of people in the communities its clients serve, whether it is through a film project; extensive business design work; or its deep resources for design research and innovation. Marquise also brings his passion for supporting diverse cultures and bringing about positive change to his many philanthropic and creative activities, from serving as a board member for the Lowline Underground Park; to collaborating with his Openbox colleague Petter Ringbom on short films and feature-length documentaries; to teaching with two Danish design schools: CIID in Copenhagen and the KaosPilot in Aarhus. He also serves as a board member for the Center For Healthcare Innovation and board adviser for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, and supports arts organizations such as the Joyce Theater, MOCADA in Brooklyn and the contemporary art museum MCA Denver.
Jean Flemma is an independent consultant for non-profits and foundations, the Director of the Ocean Defense Initiative, a founding member of Ocean Collectiv, and a co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab. She previously worked for the United States House of Representatives for more than two decades, focusing on the sustainable management and conservation of our nation’s oceans, fisheries, land, wildlife, and water resources. In addition to her congressional work, Jean also served as the Executive Director of Prairie Rivers Network, a statewide non-profit focused on protecting clean water and wildlife habitat. She started her career in public policy on Capitol Hill as a Sea Grant Fellow from the University of Washington where she got her Master’s degree in Marine Policy. She has an undergraduate degree in economics from Middlebury College.