People

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Madeleine Hamann
Lead Artist

Maddie was born and raised in land-locked O-hi-o and spent the majority of her life unaware that the ocean even has currents. Now, she is a PhD candidate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and studies underwater waves and turbulence in the ocean. Her research on submarine canyons could support policy-makers in efforts to protect marine ecosystems. However, she realizes that those kinds of protections will only come about if people realize, understand, and care about the impact humans have on the ocean and the planet. Maddie hopes that Ocean Tunnel will reach out to and inspire the worldwide Burning Man community to new actions and dialogue about our precious ocean resources–and what we, together, can create to alter the future of our planet.

Mikey Benaron
Project Lead


Mikey is a lifelong lover of the ocean. He spends most of his day frolicking above or below its surface. He is also an Ocean Lifeguard and uses this career as an avenue to help educate the public on ocean dynamics, lifesaving skills and ocean/wildlife conservation. He is excited to spread his knowledge to the greater Burning Man community through the beauty of art. He believes that Ocean Tunnel will elicit discussions —during and after the burn— that will help educate our community about the struggling ocean.

Casandra Higuera
Project Lead

Casie lives the life aquatic, and is a 20 year member of Surfrider Association. Long and short, she is a mermaid. She is constantly mesmerized by the natural beauty, order and mysteries of the deep blue. The undeniable evidence of our impact on the natural ecosystems has awakened her to the reality that if she does not take an active roll in changing the collective consciousness around consumption and waste, her beloved ecosystem will no longer thrive, evolve, and exist. She believes change starts with awareness. By educating and enrolling others through this beautiful art project, it is her hope that we can facilitate awareness around our personal responsibility to collectively take action to reduce–and in some ways reverse–our impact on the world we love.

Chris Olson
Web Developer/Project Support

As a programmer, Chris is a man of few words. He likes the ocean, though, and this website is pretty fun.

Sierra Joy
Muralist/Project Support


Sierra, AKA Queen Mother, is a chaser of good light, a biology nerd, a nature lover and a storyteller. She prefers costumes to regular clothes. Fascinated by the world around her, Sierra studied

ecology, focusing in graduate school on fish behavior and conservation of an endangered grouper. She finished graduate school with the dream of bridging the gap between cutting edge science and the public’s understanding of our natural world. Merging her inner scientist with her artistic side, Sierra works as a landscape and wildlife photographer, and a science writer specializing in narratives that interweave travel and adventure with ecology and environmental issues. Her mission is to use both camera and pen to bring the wonders and perils of the natural world to the public. Burning since 2010, Sierra loves the incredible art that comes to her second home (the playa) every year. She is excited to be part of the Ocean Tunnel team and have the opportunity to create an educational art piece she hopes will share the beauty of the underwater realm she loves, and teach people about the current state of the oceans and how each and every one of us can help protect them!

Ryan “Press-fit” Searcy
Project Support

Ryan is an ocean freak. He spends most of his free time surfing and pondering our existence on this blue planet. For work, Ryan uses science and technology to help solve some of California’s biggest coastal issues – beach water quality, plastic pollution, ocean acidification, and sea level rise. His vision is a world where our global communities have a more intimate relationship with nature, and thus more natural spaces are preserved. Ryan loves the interactivity of the Ocean Tunnel project, and sees it as a great way to inspire those who aren’t so lucky as to frequently connect with the ocean. He is stoked to be part of the team.