Jessica Kendall-Bar wins science communication award for data visualization projects

Jessica Kendall-Bar, who earned her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology this year at UC Santa Cruz, is among the inaugural recipients of the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communication, given by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in partnership with Schmidt Futures.

Kendall-Bar, now a Scripps Postdoctoral Scholar at UC San Diego, is the top winner in the “Research Scientist: Graduate Student” category for her work at UCSC on data visualization tools and animations to help scientists communicate their findings.

The announcement of the awards from the National Academies said that “Kendall-Bar’s range of beautiful, relatable work utilizes impressive, innovative tools and platforms that can be used to further the cause of science communication into the future.”

The projects recognized by this award include Kendall-Bar’s work with several different research labs at UC Santa Cruz using data visualization tools to transform animal tracking data into cinematic and informative animations of marine mammal behavior (see “Visualizing Life in the Deep”). In her thesis research on the sleep patterns of seals, she worked with Daniel Costa and Terrie Williams, both professors of ecology and evolutionary biology.

She was also recognized for her work with the UCSC Coastal Resilience Lab to develop graphics supporting research on the coastal protection benefits of coral reefs, as well as a data visualization portal for exploring the coastal protection benefits of mangroves.

In addition to her own research, Kendall-Bar helped teach workshops and courses on data visualization at UCSC, and she created an online learning center as a resource for scientists interested in using graphic design, animation, and other visual communication tools.

“The news of this award came after hearing that our research trip to was cancelled due to poor sea ice conditions—a silver lining amidst discouraging news, telling us that it is more important now than ever to tell stories that protect the planet,” she said.

The National Academies’ Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communications were created in this past year to increase the quality of science communication by recognizing outstanding science communication among research scientists and early career science journalists and creating opportunities for science journalists to make connections and pursue stories at the national, regional, and local levels.

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