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Communicating Coastal and Marine Geoscience Through Wave-based Art and Music:

Two Interdisciplinary Approaches To Convey and Augment Knowledge

Shona Paterson, Rónadh Cox, Cormac Byrne, Hester Whyte & Rónán Ó Snodaigh

The collaboration between Catching a Wave and Drumming the Waves was showcased at the Geological Society of America's recent GSA Connects 2021 meeting in Portland, Oregon.  The poster presentation, shown here, outlines the two projects and highlights their shared goals.  The poster garnered significant interest, and we were particularly pleased to talk to students who had interests in both Geosciences and the Arts, and who were energised and excited to see this kind of interdisciplinary work on display at the conference.

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Poster on display during the GSA 2021 poster sessions

ABSTRACT: PATERSON, Shona, College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences, Brunel University London, Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH, United Kingdom, COX, Ronadh, Geosciences Department, Williams College, 18 Hoxsey St., Williamstown, MA 01267, BYRNE, Cormac, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Limerick, V94 T9PX, Ireland, WHYTE, Hester, Coastal Matters, Cork, Ireland and O SNODAIGH, Rónán, Independent musician, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

A lack of public engagement with science, coupled with distrust of data and data generation, complicates societal responses to environmental problems. As scientists, we need to embrace the challenge of effectively transmitting ideas, data, and interpretations, so they gain traction and become part of a societal narrative. Finding ways to make our research not only rigorous and relevant but also relatable is increasingly important as climate changes, oceans warm, sea level rises, and pollution becomes omnipresent. The multifaceted challenges of coastal and ocean sustainability cannot be addressed by science alone.

Art and science share a common motivation and goal: to describe and understand the world around us. Both disciplines reflect across nature and society to educate and to effect change. Where science sometimes gets lost in translation, or encounters barriers to public uptake, art can be a forum for different perspectives, allowing new conversations to take place. By uniting us in shared sensory and intellectual experiences, art can break down walls between scientists and the public. This can inform and help society as it negotiates or bargains which pathways to follow into the future.

We present two complementary art-science collaborations as examples. "Drumming the Waves" uses percussion to represent wave amplification and the generation of rogue and sneaker waves at the coast. "Catching A Wave" uses glass sculpture and associated sound to shift individual and collective mindsets towards action for sustainable oceans and coasts. Both speak also to the resilience of people who live, work, and interact with the sea and its margins. The projects seek to inspire and expand individual and collective knowledge of ocean and coastal spaces, and to convey the complexity of environmental change in more accessible ways.

But creating art that embodies scientific ideas and data is only part of the process. Equally important, and arguably more difficult, is developing components that help viewers and listeners move through and with the art, into direct engagement with the underlying data. This includes finding ways to bring artistic work into our classrooms, labs, and engagements with the public. We invite colleagues and attendees to share and brainstorm ideas for how to incorporate these kinds of approaches into teaching, research, and outreach.

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