Author: Katharina Marino – Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, New Zealand

Co-author: Jenny Rock – Supervisor

Far from being a void of silence, the ocean is bustling with life and has a thriving language of its own. Acoustics are vital to whales’ and dolphins’ underwater lives, but as human activities in marine environments increase, so does the noise.

The goal of the sci-art installation, frequensea, was to make the intangible effects of marine noise pollution tangible to the lay public. This novel form of science communication aimed to evaluate how visitors interact and contribute to the co-constructed installation, and how much this model influences awareness and understanding.

Using an open-concept exhibition space, visitors contributed to the main portion of the exhibition by adding to the installation and creating a ‘sound network’ out of elastic strings. As visitors entered the exhibition they chose different colour elastics representing different sources of noise pollution. They were instructed to attach the strings between two rows of columns to create a web of visualised noise. As more individuals added strings, it became progressively more difficult to navigate from one end of the space to the other – physically modelling the interference of marine noise pollution in cetaceans’ ability to efficiently perform basic necessities (including communication, navigation and hunting or foraging for food).

In 10 days, the exhibition hosted nearly 1100 visitors. Observational data gauged how long participants stayed in the string model of noise, how they navigated the space and if they interacted with other individuals. Spot observations were also taken to determine length of engagement with additional exhibition components (video, sound clips and science data visualisations). Exit surveys were completed by visitors to assess previous awareness of marine noise pollution and benefit of exhibition components.

Together this data will help determine if participating in and physically modelling the intangible issue of marine noise pollution can help individuals understand its effect on whales and dolphins.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual talk
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices