Watches, Climate Change and Running Out of Time

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist, talks about all three.

It never occurred to Ayana Elizabeth Johnson that she was a watch collector.

As a marine biologist and co-founder of the think tank Urban Ocean Lab, Dr. Johnson, 41, constantly ponders time, but she said she considered her six watches just pieces of her identity.

During a phone interview from Brooklyn, her hometown, she described her quirky timepieces, mused about the concept of legacy and explained how she has used time as a powerful metaphor. Her comments have been edited and condensed.

Why haven’t you considered yourself a watch collector?

My dad was into watches, and as far as I can remember he had

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