Amusing Monday: Orca researcher Jayda Guy finds success in music

Jayda Guy, aka Jayda G, a native of British Columbia, has embraced her dual passions for science and music like few other people in the world today. She has somehow been able to link her experiences as a killer whale researcher to a creative mindset as a musical DJ, singer, songwriter and producer, with a debut album coming out this month.

The new album, “Significant Changes,” was inspired in part by the orcas and the natural wonders of the Salish Sea, where she conducted her studies. The album came together last year, not long after she completed her master’s degree in resource management from Simon Fraser University. Her research focused on the effects of toxic chemicals on our southern resident killer whales.

“I’m trying to bring my two worlds together to bridge the communication gap (and) engage people in a new way,” she told Andy Malt, editor of Complete Music Update. “I don’t know if people in the electronic music world will want to talk about the environment, but I think I should try! I think it’s our duty to use a platform like this in a positive way; that’s our social responsibility.”

As Andy Malt points out, the album title, “Significant Changes,” was the most-used phrase in her 224-page master’s thesis titled “A Risk Analysis of Legacy Pollutants: PCBs, PBDEs and New Emerging Pollutants in Salish Sea Killer Whales” (PDF 65.1 mb).

One song on the new album, called “Orca’s Reprise,” includes the unmistakable calls of the killer whales. Another song, “Misty Knows What’s Up,” samples the voice of Misty MacDuffee of Raincoast Conservation Foundation, a key figure in a lawsuit to protect the whales from environmental damage. The album is available for preorder or streaming from alternative sources. Some of Jayda’s music can be heard on her Soundcloud station, including “Sound of Fuca” (below).

In a 2017 interview with Andrew Ryce of the music magazine Resident Advisor, Guy said she thought her work as a DJ was going to be a mere hobby as she prepared to become an environmental researcher or perhaps a college professor. But her life has taken a new turn.

Jayda grew up Grand Forks, B.C., about 2.5 hours north of Spokane. Her love of music led her to learn the art of being a DJ and playing others’ songs. Over the past few years, she has found increasing success, spending much of her time playing clubs and music festivals in Europe.

“That’s the thing about Guy’s sets,” according to Ryce. “They’re hard to dislike. She connects soulfulness and melody across genres, and she’s willing to play the classics that other DJs shy away from.”

Jayda expanded into producing; she created a new music label; and she started writing her own music. Yet nothing made her as nervous as presenting her research findings to a panel of other scientists, she told Max Mertens of Motherboard magazine for an article published in February.

“Everyone in my lab couldn’t believe it,” she was quoted as saying. “They were like, ‘You play in front of hundreds and thousands of people all the time; why would you be nervous to defend your thesis in front of a panel of a few people?’ I was so nervous.”

Guy expresses a passion for discovery — the goal of science — as well as a passion for nature and the mysterious interactions among living things, which is something everyone can appreciate if they take the time.

“Academia can be so daunting and intimidating,” she said in the Motherboard interview. “I want to take that knottiness and intimidation out, so that people can really feel like they understand something, and that they can ask the questions they want to ask, without feeling judged or silly for asking those questions.”

Guy recently launched a London-based series of discussions she calls “JMG Talks,” in which she converses with young researchers about their lives as well as their scientific investigations. The first two talks were held last month, one with Lily Zeng, a young scientist who blends anthropology and ecology in Southwest China, and the other with Lindsay Veazey, an oceanographic modeler studying the impact of human development on the Hawaiian Coast.

Jayda was recently invited to join BBC’s Radio 1 Residency program. Her hour-long musical show was released today for listening over the next month.

Jayda’s schedule into next fall is so full of appearances and other activities that I suspect she will come to look forward to some extra time in the natural world, perhaps closer to home.

Besides the interesting articles mentioned in this blog, one can read about Jayda on her Facebook page.

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