Ph.D. student Jessica Kendall-Bar is fascinated by how wild marine mammals sleep, and also passionate about using art to explain science.
Burning Man isn’t a place where you’d expect to find a presentation on research into the sleep patterns of marine mammals.
But the week-long extravaganza of creativity in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada is exactly where Jessica Kendall-Bar, a Ph.D. student in ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, plans to screen a dreamlike, animated video she created. The film centers on her study into the similarities and differences between the sleep patterns of humans and wild marine mammals through a fantastical story of an underwater friendship between a woman and a seal.
“I think it’s a cool project,” she says simply.
But cool projects seem to be the norm for the 25-year-old Kendall-Bar. Working with her advisers, UC Santa Cruz Professors of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Terrie Williams and Dan Costa, she is studying the way marine mammal brains can cope with both oxygen and sleep deprivation that would be harmful, and even fatal, to humans.
She’s done field research in the Black Sea in Russia and free dove in 40 feet of water in Moorea to study the behavior of 9-foot-long, 60-pound moray eels. She’s illustrated two children’s books, created an educational video to explain carbon sequestration to students she was teaching at UC Berkeley, used wood-burning tools to create custom surfboard designs, and made short underwater films of her swimming through magical worlds of kelp and seagrass. Oh, and she is fluent in French and spends parts of her summer in France.
“I’m inspired by art and its power to communicate scientific information,” says Kendall-Bar, during a Skype conversation from her cousin’s home in Avignon, France, where she is visiting. “I think my ability to lend a creative twist to this process is important,”
Animation by Jessica Kendall-Bar with music by Connor Vance.
Aug 30, 2019
By Event Santa Cruz
"Jessie is one of our favorites.. I always call her a polymath, which is someone who is an expert in like 48 different things, so when I'm commenting about her and our collaboration, I feel like I have to list this huge resume because she's so amazing."
-David Dennis of Ventana Surfboards
Watch this radio interview with local KSQD radio during one of Event Santa Cruz's specials on Ventana Surfboards, who create sustainable surfboards.
Medina joined forces with a small squad of impressive colleagues including Audrey Ford, a UC Santa Cruz Marine Biology graduate and ocean conservation educator, and Jessica Kendall-Bar, an artist and marine scientist doctorate National Science Foundation graduate research fellow at UCSC studying the neurobiology of marine mammals.
The trio, Team Marla, began composing a new story, “Looking for Marla,” an inclusive underwater fish tale that reclaims what was omitted from Nemo.”
The voyage of the Oceanus is senior Jessica Kendall-Bar’s third expedition at sea, which makes her a old hand among the group of students who are plying the California coast for 10 days in the name of research.
Kendall-Bar is majoring in marine science and integrative biology, and the Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley scientists aboard the Oceanus are perfecting seaworthy robots that can send back valuable information about carbon in the ocean and climate change.
Earth & Planetary Science News:
Earth & Planetary Science Department undergraduate senior student Jessica Kendall-Bar is taking part in her third expedition at sea aboard the USS Oceanus. Kendall-Bar is majoring in marine science in the EPS Department, which gives her the opportunity to work at sea with Professor James Bishop on how carbon dioxide is sequestered in the oceans.
Kendall-Bar is a UC Regents scholar at Berkeley planning to graduate December 2016. Kendall-Bar is writing her honors thesis, after utiliizing the Charles H. Ramsden Endowed Fund to travel to Russia and conduct electrophysiological sleep recordings in two fur seals at the Utrish Marine Mammal Station.
UCSC graduate students Paloma Medina and Jessica Kendall-Bar and alumna Audrey Ford collaborated on the illustrated tale of a clownfish in transition.
The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History will host a book launch event on Friday, November 15, for the new children's book Looking for Marla, written and illustrated by graduate students at UC Santa Cruz. The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. and will feature performances by local artists.
Looking for Marla tells the tale of a curious clownfish in transition as they find their way through fatherhood and into motherhood. In wild clownfish populations, a male will transition into the role of the dominant female when the female is removed from the community, a biological fact ignored in the movie Finding Nemo.
The book was written by Paloma Medina, a graduate student in biomolecular engineering, and UCSC alumna Audrey Ford, and illustrated by Jessica Kendall-Bar, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology. It is available in both English and Spanish (translated by Karen Ross), and copies will be available at the event.