Tora Johnson

Tora Johnson has taught marine, environmental, and geographic information systems (GIS) at the college level since 1996. Dr. Johnson is Professor of GIS and environmental studies at UMM and serves as director of the GIS Laboratory and Service Center and as chair of the Environmental and Biological Sciences Division. Before becoming a mom in 1996, Dr. Johnson made a career of teaching and crewing aboard several of the large sailing vessels that ply the coast of New England, as well as commercial fishing in Alaska.

Dr. Johnson’s current human ecological research focuses on community resilience, political conflicts over natural resources and the uses of maps in decision-making. Her work focuses on supporting sustainable and prosperous rural communities in a changing world. Centering on dignity as a guiding principle, she utilizes best practices for resolving conflict and engaging diverse people in productive decision making. In service projects through the UMM GIS Service Center and the Downeast Health Research Collaborative, Dr. Johnson and her students work with local towns, organizations and businesses to conserve Downeast Maine’s natural resources and plan for a prosperous, healthy and sustainable future. She has collaborated with installation artists and sculptors on community-based and place-based installation art projects.

Also a writer, Dr. Johnson’s award-winning book, Entanglements: The Intertwined Fates of Whales and Fishermen, was released in 2005. She was the marine reporter for the Martha’s Vineyard Times from 1998 to 2000. In addition to columns and feature articles for magazines and newspapers, she has published the Guide to Freshwater Animals without Backbones (with Arlene De Strulle; The Catskill Center, 1997).

Awards and Honors:
  • Faculty Inductee, Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, 2022

  • University of Maine Pen Award for volunteer work with the 4-H Program involving college student interns in youth activities, 2017
  • Maine Campus Compact Donald Harward Faculty Award for Service Learning Excellence, 2016
  • Maine State Legislature Legislative Sentiment in Recognition of Service to Downeast Maine, 2015
  • National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award, 2015
  • Maine Association of Planners Project of the Year with Judy East, 2014
  • Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Assoc. Project of the Year, with Judy East, 2014
  • Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers list for fall, 2005


M.Phil., College of the Atlantic
B.S., University of Oregon
Ph.D., University of Maine

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