Visualizing Life in the Deep: A Creative Pipeline for Data-Driven Animations to Facilitate Marine Mammal Research, Outreach, and Conservation

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings - 2021 IEEE VIS Arts Program, VISAP 2021


IEEE Xplore

Publisher Location

Manhattan, New York

First page number:


Last page number:



In this paper, we introduce a creative pipeline to incorporate physiological and behavioral data from contemporary marine mammal research into data-driven animations, leveraging functionality from industry tools and custom scripts to promote scientific insights, public awareness, and conservation outcomes. Our framework can flexibly transform data describing animals' orientation, position, heart rate, and swimming stroke rate to control the position, rotation, and behavior of 3D models, to render animations, and to drive data sonification. Additionally, we explore the challenges of unifying disparate datasets gathered by an interdisciplinary team of researchers, and outline our design process for creating meaningful data visualization tools and animations. As part of our pipeline, we clean and process raw acceleration and electrophysiological signals to expedite complex multi-stream data analysis and the identification of critical foraging and escape behaviors. We provide details about four animation projects illustrating marine mammal datasets. These animations, commissioned by scientists to achieve outreach and conservation outcomes, have successfully increased the reach and engagement of the scientific projects they describe. These impactful visualizations help scientists identify behavioral responses to disturbance, increase public awareness of human-caused disturbance, and help build momentum for targeted conservation efforts backed by scientific evidence.


Art-science research; Data-driven animation; Marine mammals; Ocean sciences; Science communication


Marine Biology | Physiology

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