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Two New Board Members Tackle Sustainability and Social Justice

March 7, 2018

NYC’s Billion Oyster Project Announces Two New Board Members Who Tackle Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice Hand-in-Hand


New York, NY, March 7, 2018:

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, founder and president of Ocean Collectiv, and Kate Orff, founder and principal of SCAPE Landscape Architecture, join Billion Oyster Project’s Board of Directors, helping to restore 1 billion oysters to New York Harbor by the year 2035. Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist and founder of the consulting firm Ocean Collectiv; and Kate Orff is a landscape architect and founder of SCAPE, an award-winning landscape architecture firm based in Manhattan.

“We are so excited to welcome two of the leading women working on solutions for how humans can live sustainably on this planet for generations to come,” says Murray Fisher, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Their expertise and commitment to both environmental sustainability and social justice is a perfect fit for the Billion Oyster Project where our goal is to create a worldwide model for uniting marine restoration and education for large-scale, long-term change.”

A Brooklyn native, Dr. Johnson is Founder and President of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm that supports clients in “advancing ocean sustainability, grounded in social justice.”

Previously, as Executive Director of the Waitt Institute, Dr. Johnson co-founded the Blue Halo Initiative, leading the Caribbean’s first successful island-wide ocean zoning effort. Her work resulted in the protection of a third of Barbuda’s coastal waters. She also volunteered as Co-Director of Partnerships for the March for Science, building a coalition of over 300 organizations that inspired over 1 million people globally to march in support of science-based policy-making.

Prior, Dr. Johnson held policy positions in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and is currently an adjunct professor at New York University.

Dr. Johnson 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. The fish trap she invented to reduce the catch of non-target species won the Rare/National Geographic Solution Search.

Dr. Johnson’s 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, and and she is a frequent blogger on National Geographic and Scientific American. She envisions and works toward a healthy ocean that supports food security, economies, and cultures.

“For years, I have admired the Billion Oyster Project’s work to restore our harbor, train diverse next-generation ocean leaders, and educate New Yorkers about our coastal ecosystems,” says Dr. Johnson. “I’m thrilled to be joining the board.”

Kate Orff is the founder and principal of SCAPE Landscape Architecture. She focuses on applying landscape architecture to mitigate the effects of climate change and address issues of environmental and social justice. She presently works closely with the Billion Oyster Project on The Living Breakwaters Project, a multi-year initiative to construct oyster reefs that will help to protect Staten Island from storm surge.

Ms. Orff was the first winner of the MacArthur Genius Award / Fellowship in the field of Landscape Architecture (awarded in 2017). She was named a 2012 United States Artist Fellow and an Elle Magazine “Planet Fixer” and presented at the International TEDWomen Conference in 2010.

SCAPE’s work has been featured on the cover of Landscape Architecture Magazine and in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Economist, among other publications.

In addition to running SCAPE, Ms. Orff is Director of Columbia University GSAPP’s Urban Design Program and an Associate Professor. Her studio and seminar classes “aim to discover new ways of integrating social life, infrastructure, urban form, biodiversity, and community-based change.”

Ms. Orff graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia with Distinction, and she earned a Master in Landscape Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.

“As a new board member, I’m thrilled to be able to strengthen and structure what has been a long-term engagement with Billion Oyster Project—alternately as a collaborator, workshop leader, and supporter since the organization’s founding,” says Ms. Orff. “I deeply believe in the work of Billion Oyster Project—it offers a pathway toward a future with engaged, committed stewards working together to create a more resilient and biodiverse coastal landscape.”

Dr. Johnson and Ms. Orff join Billion Oyster Project as the project gears up to plant millions more oysters this spring and serve more NYC schools in the coming school year.

A full list of Billion Oyster Project board members is available here.



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Jennifer Ballesteros:
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Launched in 2014, Billion Oyster Project is an ecosystem restoration and education movement aimed at restoring one billion live oysters to New York Harbor by the year 2035. With the ability to filter water, provide habitat for many marine species, and help shield NYC shorelines from storm damage, oysters have the power to protect life in and out of the water.

To date, Billion Oyster Project has planted 25 million oysters so far, engaging 6,000+ students, 9,000+ volunteers, and 60+ NYC restaurant partners. The project’s hands-on science and restoration curriculum is taught at 70 schools across the city. To follow the journey toward 1 billion oysters restored, subscribe to Billion Oyster Project’s e-newsletter at, and follow @billionoyster on Twitter and Instagram and @billionoysterproject on Facebook.