Tierney Thys is a Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences, biologist, and filmmaker. Her work bridges the worlds of primary research and science communication to promote environmental understanding and stewardship. Dr. Thys studies giant ocean sunfishes in numerous locations worldwide, including Galapagos, California, and Indonesia, with an aim to reduce bycatch, promote marine protection, and expand sustainable ecotourism. As part of this research she runs www.oceansunfish.org, Adopt A Sunfish Project, and a citizen science sunfish sighting program. Additional research projects include exploring the psychological and neurological power of nature and nature imagery through electroencephalography (EEG) with Tan Le and functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI) with Nik Sawe. Together with fellow NG Explorer Nalini Nadkarni, she has been researching the effects of nature on incarcerated populations in a project called the Blue Room (named one of Time magazine's top inventions of 2014).
When not chasing fish or doing neuro-research, Thys collaborates with a variety of artists to message science and conservation in diverse ways, from filmmaking to dance, and creating ocean trash sculptures. From 1998–2008, Thys served as the Research Director for Sea Studios Foundation, a California-based natural history documentary production house that produced the multimillion-dollar NSF-funded series Strange Days on Planet Earth and a series of classroom videos called The Shape of Life. Recent independent film projects include short films for TEDed on topics such as plankton (The Secret Life of Plankton), animal evolution (How Life Came to Land), plastic pollution (The Complicated Journey of Marine Plastics) and sharks (Why are Sharks so Awesome?). Thys also serves as the Daily Explorer in the online game Animal Jam developed by Wildworx. Animal Jam has 70 million registered players in 120 countries and 5 languages.