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Sonic Kayaks: Environmental monitoring and experimental music by citizens

PLOS

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IMAGE: The sonic kayak system in action. view more 

Credit: Amber Griffiths

Researchers have rigged kayaks with underwater environmental sensors and speakers to create an environmental monitoring tool suitable for citizen scientists. Instructions for the hardware and open-source software for making the "Sonic Kayak" are presented in a paper publishing 30 November in the open access journal PLOS Biology. The system was conceived by researchers at the transdisciplinary laboratory FoAM Kernow, and the Bicrophonic Research Institute.

The kayaks allow paddlers to hear sonifications (data transformed into sound) of water temperature in real time, as well as sounds from under the water, generating live music from the marine world. Working with marine researchers from the Zoological Society of London and University of Exeter, the technology was developed to record the sensor data along with GPS, time and date. This allows fine scale mapping of water temperatures and underwater noise, providing data that were previously unattainable using standard research equipment. Preliminary data are also provided from the hydrophones (underwater microphones) and digital thermometers, demonstrating the potential for research in marine noise pollution

The Sonic Kayak can be used as a citizen science data collection device, as research equipment for professional scientists, or as a sound-art installation in its own right.

The project was partly developed during open hacklabs (events for anyone interested to design and build together) to attract more diverse skills and facilitate collaboration and learning across disciplines. Since the Sonic Kayak hardware design and software have been made open-source, anyone is able to adapt and improve the system for their own needs. Merging the approaches of biosciences, remote sensing, sound art, coding and sports resulted in a project that is new for all fields and demonstrates the great potential for truly transdisciplinary research.

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In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Biology: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2004044

Citation: Griffiths AGF, Kemp KM, Matthews K, Garrett JK, Griffiths DJ (2017) Sonic Kayaks: Environmental monitoring and experimental music by citizens. PLoS Biol 15(11): e2004044. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2004044

Funding: FEAST Cornwall https://feastcornwall.org/. Received by AGFG, DJG, KMK, KM. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. British Science Association https://www.britishscienceassociation.org/. Received by AGFG, DJG, KMK, KM. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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