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The Virginia Coastal Reserve hosts the most successful sea grass restoration effort in the world. Read more about the VCR LTER’s sea grass research here. Listen to an NPR story about this project as a model for restoration worldwide. This sonification, designed by Matthew Burtner, works with data on carbon and nitrogen levels recorded in the sea grass.

Sonification of Sea Grass Tissue Carbon and Nitrogen Levels from 2010 to 2017 at Virginia Coastal Research Center uses carbon and nitrogen data samples taken periodically between 2010 and 2017 set in three second increments to control playback of an underwater recording of the habitat. The research used was collected by Karen McGlathery (citation: McGlathery K. 2017. Carbon and Nitrogen in Seagrass Tissue from Virginia Coastal Bays, 2010-2017. Environmental Data Initiative. Dataset accessed 2/26/2019.)  

The audio habitat was recorded by Matthew Burtner in 2017. Carbon determines the amount of randomness in the playback location in the file, such that more carbon creates a more fractured sound and less carbon creates a more stable sound with less scatter activity. Nitrogen level determines the amount of pitch randomness and the tonal quality of the pitch. More nitrogen creates greater randomness but a smoother sound. We hear decreasing nitrogen as a low, more stable tonal sonority, starting at about .7 and we hear a higher, scattered and noisier sound as the nitrogen level approaches 1.5. The nitrogen and carbon are closely related through the synthesis technique such that each parameter conditions the other and in this way we can hear complex interrelated tendencies through the sonification. We can also hear macro-cycle oscillations. This is an initial mapping and will benefit from more refined parameterization and different coupling of synthesis techniques. For example training the range of randomness or inversely coupling tonal quality and randomization make a dramatic difference in the sound. The 465 data points were collected annually in June and July.

Seagrass SonificationMatthew Burtner
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