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New Course: Data-Driven Animation for Science Communication

UC-wide online course UCSC SCIC110, Data-Driven Animation for Science Communication, taught in Spring 2023.
Created in collaboration with UCSC Online Education, UCSC Science Communication Program, CSUMB Science Illustration Program, and Burroughs Wellcome Fund. 

Courses Taught

Instructor & Course Designer
UC Online & UCSC Science Communication Program
SCIC110: Data-Driven Animation for Science Communication
Instructor & Course Designer
CSU Monterey Bay Science Illustration Program
SCIP395-33_SU22: Data-Driven Animation for Science Communication
Instructor & Course Designer
Pixar University
Visualizing Life in the Deep: data-driven animation using animal-borne sensors at sea
Instructor & Course Designer
UC Santa Cruz
Art 199/299: Data Visualization Collective
Teaching Assistant
UC Santa Cruz
BIOE 129L: Marine Mammals (Instructor: Dr. Dan Costa)
Teaching Assistant & Collector
UC Berkeley
IB103LF: Invertebrate Zoology (Instructor: Dr. Jenna Judge)
Teaching Assistant & Course Designer
UC Berkeley
Oceans C82 (Instructor Dr. Jim Bishop)

Science Communication Videos

Visualizing Life in the Deep

Visualizing Life in the Deep

Video abstract for submitted manuscript "Visualizing Life in the Deep: A Creative Pipeline for Data-Driven Animations to Facilitate Marine Mammal Research, Outreach, and Conservation." Paper: Video Transcript: Have you ever wondered what marine mammals do beneath the surface? How about when they hear the sound of a predator, the rumbling of a ship above, or have just escaped a near-death encounter? Our new paper explains how we turn marine mammal tagging data into animations and sound to facilitate research, communication, and conservation. A critical first step of each collaboration included an iterative process of storyboarding, data sharing, and scriptwriting to refine our key messages and the target audience. We wrote scripts that use real data on position, orientation, swimming behavior, and heart rate to animate models of marine mammals, so that we can see and hear how they react to disturbances in their natural environment. Our 3D humpback whale animation uses tag data to reconstruct cooperative foraging behavior on the seafloor and demonstrate the potential harm of bottom-set fishing gear. Our 2D elephant seal animation follows a group of seals halfway across the Pacific as their decisions to forage and rest while avoiding predators shift in response to their internal and external environments. For our newest 3D animations, we created two custom tools that allow us to see and hear the impact of a disturbance. First, we built swim controllers for rigged 3D models that take raw accelerometer data and generate an animation of realistic swimming behavior to the beat of the data, alternating between swimming and gliding. Next, we wrote a script that synthesizes a soundtrack from electrocardiogram data of deep-diving marine mammals. When they get scared, animals respond with an increase in heart rate, vigorously pumping blood through their body so that they can run away at top speed. But let’s listen to the beating heart of a narwhal as he runs away after being entangled in fishing gear. At an extremely low 2.9 beats per minute, it reveals a physiological paradox- where its heart and body are at odds. Learning more about responses like these can teach us how marine mammals respond to disturbances in their natural habitat, and how we can work to mitigate those disturbances to protect them. We argue that by equipping biologists to leverage powerful industry animation tools, we can expedite complex data analysis, promote science communication outcomes, foster empathy and compassion for the natural world, and better serve the ecosystems we aim to protect. We invite you to learn more, download sample scenes, and learn to visualize your own data through interactive tutorials on: Our webpage: and Github:
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