A n d r e a   J e s s e





Mini Bio


Although I was born in San Francisco, I didn't live here until I was an adult. Growing up on the Peninsula I knew the city only as a suburban tourist. I have a vague recollection of Playland at the Beach which was magical. I have many fond memories of the San Francisco Zoo. Perhaps it was those early zoo experiences that inspired me to become a biologist. I got my Master's in Biology at San Francisco State University in 1998. For my thesis I studied song in the White-crowned Sparrow under the mentorship of Dr. Luis Baptista. Luis had an amazing ear for bird song. Once while driving in San Francisco he heard the song of a migrant subspecies of the White-crowned Sparrow at a time when the bird should no longer have been in town. Luis and I went back to the spot with a recorder and captured him briefly to determine whether it was a migrant that had decided to stay around. It wasn't. It was a local bird who had learned the migrant's song. This was news to science and made it into a 1997 publication (listed below). Luis also wrote a popular article about the encounter. Borrowing from Luis' wisdom I set out to study songs of White-crowned Sparrows on islands in San Francisco Bay (Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, Brooks Island and Yerba Buena Island) for my thesis. I compared these song dialects to those on the surrounding mainland and indeed found that island songs are distinct from other islands and from mainland sites. My 1997 thesis was adapted for publication with help from Drs. Hans Slabbekoorn and Doug Bell (see below). While recording sparrows throughout the city I got a great appreciation for the beauty and uniqueness of San Francisco. I have worked for over a decade in the natural history museum setting preparing specimens of both animals and sound recordings. Sometimes the specimens are literally as big as a whale. I've aided Ray Bandar in salvaging specmen parts from many marine mammals on Northern California beaches. In addition to specimen salvaging and preparation, museum work has introduced me to data documentation, database work, assisting researchers, volunteer coordination, public demonstration -and teaching the value of science in general and the importance of museum collections specifically as a repository of information of the creatures with whom we share the planet. This city inspires me to get involved environmentally, socially, politically and recently in forming a nonprofit to help celebrate and preserve it and all that it represents.

I am an ESL teacher in San Francisco. It feels like a natural extension - song learning in birds to language learning in people. I love introducing students to all the fascinating aspects of our language and all the fascinating aspects of this city.

View pix of me with my students out and about. For more pix and videos, visit my personal blog. For ESL teacher and learner resources go to: Andrea Jesse's ESL Page

Andrea at home, 2004

Andrea at home, 2004


Favorite Quote

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.

Henry James


Favorite Places Outside San Francisco

Mexico has so much to offer. I have been to Mexico City four times and still have only scratched the surface of this beautiful and historic city. Further south and east is the Yucatan. Twice now I've traveled across this magnificent peninsula visiting lovely colonial cities and spectacular ruins.

Mexico has a fascinating history and all of it is commemorated and celebrated there.

Geographical History

I was born in San Francisco at UCSF. I was raised on the Peninsula -San Jose, Palo Alto, San Carlos.

My residence in San Francisco began after getting my Bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley. I first lived in the downtown/Nob Hill area. I then moved to the Twin Peaks area. Wanting to be more central I moved to Hayes Valley and then the Western Addition. I now live in the Lone Mountain / Panhandle area. I love being near Golden Gate Park and central to the city at large.

Hobbies / Interests


One of the great things about San Francisco is the great number of offbeat films available for viewing on the big screen. The best film going experience in the city is the grand Castro Theatre with accompanying music played on the mighty wurlitzer. Many smaller independent venues like the Roxie Cinema and the Red Vic may not be as architecturally interesting, but they do offer some of the more interesting films. The Roxie does have a nice marquee. The Balboa Theater has perhaps the best marquee in town. In addition to current films, the Balboa showcases some of the more interesting films of yesteryear.

Every April, San Francisco hosts the San Francisco International Film Festival where a huge variety of foreign and domestic films are shown.

Support the neighborhood theatres!



Ang, Xiao-Jing Yang; Lei, Fu-Min; Wang, Gang and Jesse, A.. 2007. Syllable sharing and inter-individual syllable variation in Anna's hummingbird Calypte anna songs in San Francisco, California. Folia Zoologica, 56(3):1-14. [abstract]

Jesse, A. 2006. Diglossia and Pragmatics Curricula in English as a Second Language (ESL) Instruction. M.A. in Education Thesis/Synthesis, St. Mary's College, Moraga, California. 149 pp. [OCLC 84653104]

Slabbekoorn, H.; Jesse, A. and Bell, D.A. 2003. Microgeographic song variation in island populations of the white-crowned sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys nutalli: innovation through recombination. Behaviour, 140(7): 947-963. [abstract]

Jesse, A. 1997. Cultural Homologues and Insular Dialects in Nuttall's White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys nuttalli). M.A. in Biology Thesis, San Francisco State University. 188 pp. [California Academy of Sciences Library, M&O QL698.5 .J47 1997a; San Francisco State University Library]

Baptista, L.F.; Jesse, A.; Bell, D.A. and Cebrian, C. 1997. Acquisition and recall of Gambel's Sparrow dialects by Nuttall's white-crowned sparrows in the wild. Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 109(3): 516-521. [dowloadable pdf of article ; abstract]

Jesse, A. 1994. Natural History Museum Collections and Conservation Biology. Intersci: Journal of the College of Science and Engineering at San Francisco State University. Fall issue.

Letter to the editor of the SF Weekly - week of October 16, 2002.  This letter speaks to the adverse effects of free-roaming dogs and cats on wild birds.



                 * Bicycle Coalition

                     * CalPhotos  (personal profile)

                     * CATESOL

                     * Ornis 


Lyrics that Inspire  (Blackbird by Paul McCartney)        

 Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting  for this moment to arise.