Ph.D. student Jessica Kendall-Bar is fascinated by how wild marine mammals sleep, and also passionate about using art to explain science

UCSC.edu | July 16, 2019 | Peggy Townsend

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.

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