The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County and Nickelodeon Celebrate World Oceans Day with Launch of Brand-new “Science Of Spongebob” Educational Program

Initiative Brings Together Scientists and the Undersea World of Bikini Bottom to Encourage Marine Science Exploration

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and Nickelodeon Science of Spongebob logos

LOS ANGELES, CA (June 8, 2021)—In honor of World Oceans Day, the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) and Nickelodeon will today launch “Science of SpongeBob,” a new initiative based on the iconic SpongeBob SquarePants animated series that will introduce kids and families to the science that inspired the undersea world of Bikini Bottom and its beloved inhabitants. With the help of Natural History Museum (NHM) experts, audiences will learn about a variety of scientific disciplines, including marine biology, paleontology, ichthyology, and mammalogy, as well as the scientific discovery process that contributed to the creation and development of SpongeBob, which has reigned as the number one animated series on television in the US for the last 18 years. Dynamic videos, activities and live programs with NHM scientists and educators will kick off today at NHM.ORG/spongebob

“We are thrilled to be working with Nickelodeon again on a program that demonstrates the excitement of scientific research and discovery, as well as the range of career pathways available in Museum Science,” said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County. “As we continue to encourage scientific exploration and share our research and collections, we hope that kids and families are inspired to take responsibility for the care of our natural world.”

NHMLAC has collaborated with Nickelodeon to create eight videos featuring scientists from NHM’s Research and Collections department that feature clips from episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants that demonstrate how science has been incorporated into the beloved TV show, its characters and storylines. In addition to providing information on the underwater ecosystems that comprise the world of Bikini Bottom by exploring various topics, the videos will feature behind-the-scenes looks at NHM’s collections, allowing access to many items rarely seen by the public. Scientists will also share some tips for overcoming ocean fears, how to observe marine life, and break down misconceptions about marine science. Plus, viewers can learn about the real-life ocean animals that SpongeBob and the citizens of Bikini Bottom are based on, the small steps individuals can take to protect the oceans, how scientists create unique species names, the different types of ocean habitats, deep sea dangers, prehistoric Bikini Bottom, silly sea facts, and more.

SpongeBob SquarePants has entertained and educated audiences about marine life for more than 20 years, and we are so excited to partner with NHMLAC to honor the legacy of series creator Stephen Hillenburg through ‘Science of SpongeBob,’ which brings the characters and world of Bikini Bottom to life with engaging, accessible and informative content,” said David Bruson, Director, Public Affairs, Nickelodeon. 

A video featuring Dr. Regina Wetzer, Director of NHM’s Marine Biodiversity Center, and Kathy Omura, Collections Manager of NHM’s Marine Biodiversity Center, explains how scientists name new species and provides two examples, a type of sea star named after Patrick Star and a crustacean named after the microplastics found in its stomach. Viewers will also learn about whale poop and its beneficial impact on the marine ecosystem with Dr. Jorge Velez-Juarbe, Associate Curator of Mammalogy (Marine Mammals); the details of sea snail teeth with Dr. Jann Vendetti, Associate Curator of Malacology; and what SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward Tentacles and Patrick Star's distant relatives might have looked like with Dr. Austin Hendy, Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology.

Visitors can also participate in fun at-home activities, including steps to create an ocean diorama, start an ocean journal, make a sea turtle puppet, and more. In July, additional DIY activities developed by NHM’s 2021 Marine Science Interns will help audiences continue their at-home exploration with simple step-by-step activities and projects.

Audiences can also join virtual events in June and July with NHM’s experts and educators for some deep dives into the sea. From home, viewers can explore the ocean through a series of events looking at easy-to-access environments like tidepools, NHM’s Mobile Museums and so much more.

Current Programming Schedule

Tuesday, June 8 at 11 am 
Dive into the Science of SpongeBob: Ocean Plastics and the Future of Bikini Bottom

Welcome to the Science of SpongeBob! All month long, join NHMLAC researchers, educators, and special guests as we dive into ocean learning with topics exploring the real species behind the show's Bikini Bottom characters, in partnership with Nickelodeon. To celebrate World Oceans Day, we're kicking things off with Dr. Britta Baechler, Senior Manager of Ocean Plastics Research at Ocean Conservancy, as she helps us break down ocean plastics and microplastics, the impact these have on marine life, and what kids and grown ups can do to protect our oceans. Learn more here.

Thursday, June 10 at 11 am 
Dive into the Science of SpongeBob: Get to Know Gary the Sea Snail!

Join Dr. Jann Vendetti, NHM's Associate Curator of Malacology, and Museum Educator Steven Mendoza to explore the fascinating world of snails! Uncover fact and fiction about the real life species behind SpongeBob's beloved pet sea snail, Gary, and discover the different ways these animals use their slime, teeth and shell for everyday survival. Learn more here.

Tuesday, June 15 at 11 am 
Dive into the Science of SpongeBob: All About Pearl

Explore the mighty world of whales with Dr. Jorge Velez-Juarbe, NHM's Associate Curator of Mammalogy, and Museum Educator Diana Sanchez! From its large teeth and unique skull shape to its use of echolocation, learn how the real species of sperm whale inspired the character of Pearl. Learn more here.

Thursday, June 17 at 11 am 
Dive into the Science of SpongeBob: Swimmin’ with the Fishes

Discover some of the spectacularly strange and surprising fishes that swim beneath the ocean's surface--and not just in Bikini Bottom! Join Dr. Bill Ludt, Assistant Curator of Ichthyology at NHM, and Museum Educator Michelle Vanegas as they tackle some fascinating fish facts and explore the various species featured in the SpongeBob universe. Learn more here.

Visit NHM.ORG/spongebob for full information regarding additional virtual events through July. For videos or images, please contact Sally Marquez,

Scientist Bios

Dr. Britta Baechler, Senior Manager of Ocean Plastics Research, Ocean Conservancy

Dr. Britta Baechler is Ocean Conservancy’s Senior Manager of Ocean Plastics Research. She earned her undergraduate degree in Biology at Lewis & Clark College and PhD in Environmental Science at Portland State University, both located in Portland, Oregon. She has worked in numerous fisheries and marine conservation roles, including as a shellfish fishery manager in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands region of Alaska, and as the Marine Protected Area Coordinator in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands. Her broad interests at the intersections of plastic pollution, fisheries, and fishing communities have been longstanding; as such, Britta’s recent doctoral work focused on determining the ecological and social dimensions of microplastics in Pacific Northwest shellfish. In her role with Ocean Conservancy, Britta is working to develop a policy-relevant ocean plastics research agenda and contribute new insights to the growing body of scientific literature on ocean plastics.

Dr. Austin Hendy, Assistant Curator, Invertebrate Paleontology 
Austin Hendy is NHM’s Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology. After obtaining his doctorate at the University of Cincinnati, Austin was a post-doctoral fellow at Yale University, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution, and Florida Museum of Natural History. An author on numerous scientific papers, he has conducted research in many parts of the world, but especially tropical South America. There he studies the biodiversity, biogeography and paleoecology of Cenozoic mollusc faunas. He is also interested in bioinformatics and the application of natural museum specimens and data for K-12 education. 

Dr. Bill Ludt, Assistant Curator, Ichthyology
Dr. Bill Ludt joined NHM as Assistant Curator of Ichthyology in 2019. Prior to that he was the first Collette Postdoctoral Fellow in Systematic Ichthyology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He holds a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, a M.S. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.S. from the University of Arizona. Bill's research aims to understand how speciation and evolution occur within the largest group of vertebrates – fishes. To accomplish this, he uses a multifaceted approach, applying a variety of methods across recent and ancient time scales. Central to his research are museum specimens and the data associated with them, which he uses to obtain a diversity of information from entire genomes to digital CT scans. 

Kathy Omura, Collections Manager, Marine Biodiversity Center
Kathy was the first person to join the NHM Marine Biodiversity Center when it opened in 2000. She earned a B.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and came to the Natural History Museum with 13 years of marine invertebrate taxonomy experience.

Dean Pentcheff, Project Coordinator, DISCO
Dean Pentcheff coordinates NHM’s Diversity Initiative for the Southern California Ocean (DISCO). Prior to that, he was a co-founder and coordinator of NHM’s BioSCAN survey of urban-to-non-urban arthropod biodiversity. He has a background in bioinformatics related to taxonomy and specimen collections and, prior to that, research experience in marine biomechanics focusing on animal-fluid interactions.

Dr. Jorge Velez-Juarbe, Associate Curator, Mammalogy (Marine Mammals)
Jorge Velez-Juarbe holds a Ph.D. from Howard University, where he studied the morphology, systematics, and paleobiology of fossil sirenians and cetaceans. After receiving his doctorate in 2012, Dr. Velez-Juarbe held Post-Doctoral Associate positions at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and at California State University Fullerton before being hired as Assistant Curator of Marine Mammals at NHM.  Dr. Velez-Juarbe's appointment involves curatorial responsibility for both our fossil and extant marine mammal collections.

Dr. Jann Vendetti, Twila Bratcher Chair in Malacological Research and Associate Curator, Malacology
Jann Vendetti is NHM’s Associate Curator of Malacology (Mollusks) and Twila Bratcher Chair in Malacological Research. She is a founding member of the Urban Nature Research Center. She is interested in the natural history, evolution, systematics, and conservation of marine and terrestrial snails—an extremely diverse group of organisms. Jann joined the museum in 2014 and has focused on collections-based research and the Snails and slugs Living in Metropolitan Environments (SLIME) project, championing the important role of community science to understanding urban-living biodiversity.

Dr. Regina Wetzer, Curator and Director, Marine Biodiversity Center
Dr. Wetzer earned her PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of South Carolina. She had been with NHM in the mid-'80s and returned in 1999. Since 2003 she has been a Research Scientist and Director of NHM’s Marine Biodiversity Center. Her research focuses on crustacean systematics and isopod phylogeny, and she has a special fondness for sphaeromatid isopods. Dr. Wetzer's research has taken her all over the world, including Africa, Mongolia, the South Pacific, South America, and Australia.

About SpongeBob SquarePants
Since its launch July 17, 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants has reigned as the number-one animated series on TV for the last 18 years, while generating a universe of beloved characters, pop culture catchphrases and memes, theatrical releases, consumer products, a Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical and a global fan base. SpongeBob SquarePants is the most widely distributed property in ViacomCBS Networks International history, seen in more than 170 countries and territories, translated in 30+ languages, and averaging more than 100 million total viewers every month. SpongeBob SquarePants was created by Stephen Hillenburg and produced by Nickelodeon in Burbank, CA. The character-driven cartoon chronicles the nautical and sometimes nonsensical adventures of SpongeBob, an incurable optimist and earnest sea sponge, and his undersea friends. 

About the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County 
The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) include the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park, La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park, and the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall. They operate under the collective vision to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds. The museums hold one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history—more than 35 million objects. Using these collections for groundbreaking scientific and historical research, the museums also incorporate them into on- and offsite nature and culture exploration in L.A. neighborhoods, and a slate of community science programs—creating indoor-outdoor visitor experiences that explore the past, present, and future. Visit NHMLAC.ORG for adventure, education, and entertainment opportunities.

About Nickelodeon
Nickelodeon, now in its 42nd year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The brand includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, digital, location-based experiences, publishing and feature films. For more information or artwork, visit Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of ViacomCBS Inc. (Nasdaq: VIACA, VIAC).