There are over 1,800 UNESCO designated sites around the world – World Heritage sites, biosphere reserves and UNESCO Global Geoparks – which are facing the impacts of ecological crisis, and can play a significant role in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
These were the key messages from the opening day of the Huangshan Dialogue a global forum on UNESCO-designated sites and sustainable development hosted in China in September 2016. The conference was organised by HIST (The International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage) under the auspices of UNESCO and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In the opening address, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova stressed the importance of the event as a contribution towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as towards the development of UNESCO’s new updated Strategy for Action on Climate Change.
The founding director of Biosphere Soundscapes, Dr Leah Barclay, was invited as the Australian representative to deliver a presentation on interdisciplinary creativity and mobile technologies in changing climates, with a particular focus on environmental sensing and acoustic ecology in UNESCO biosphere reserves.
This invitation came after Dr Barclay's keynote address at the 4th World Congress of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Lima, Peru earlier this year that featured outcomes from Biosphere Soundscapes – an interdisciplinary research project underpinned by the creative possibilities of acoustic ecology and rapidly emerging fields of biology concerned with the study of environmental patterns and changes through sound. The World Congress of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves was the first event acoustic ecology was included on the UN agenda as a key interdisciplinary field for community engagement around cultural and biological diversity.
During the Huangshan Dialogue in China, the possibilities of acoustic ecology were showcased through Biosphere Soundscapes, which launched in the Noosa Biosphere Reserve in Australia in 2012 and now operates internationally in countries including India, Cambodia, Mexico, Brazil and Peru. Professor Shahbaz Khan, Director of the UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, believes acoustic ecology presents a dynamic and engaging way for local communities to engage with the environment and understand ecological changes through accessible means.
Biosphere Soundscapes is delivered through immersive residencies with artists and scientists, research laboratories, intensive masterclasses and a diversity of creative projects spanning four continents. The project sits at the intersection of art and science, with the recordings providing valuable scientific data for biodiversity analysis and incredible source material for creative works that bring awareness to these environments.
During the Huangshan Dialogue, Dr Barclay showcased a series of these creative works including Rainforest Listening, which brought the sounds of the Central Amazon Biosphere Reserve to Times Square in New York City for Climate Week 2015, and the Eiffel Tower for COP21 in Paris. The presentation also introduced the history of acoustic ecology and provided delegates with a series of tools for community engagement, including sound walking and deep listening activities.
The Huangshan Dialogue included presentations, panel discussions and video demonstrations from participating experts, representatives of UNESCO’s secretariat and field office network. Discussions focused on how the impacts of climate change on UNESCO sites interact with other factors, and on the use of remote sensing technologies and other innovative approaches to understand climate change at a local and global level.
The bioacoustics approaches we are using in Biosphere Soundscapes are dynamic, non-invasive environmental monitoring techniques that allows us to learn about environmental changes in new ways. We have been building these into community engagement programs that introduce acoustic ecology and explore the social, cultural and ecological contexts of our sonic environments. This has proved to be a very rewarding way to engage communities in climate action and inspire a culture of listening.
In the context of biosphere reserves that are seeking to reunite the conservation of biological and cultural diversity, acoustic ecology is an ideal field to experiment and implement interdisciplinary approaches that can be driven by the local community. New mobile technologies for ecosystem monitoring have become increasingly accessible and affordable, so empowering local communities to engage with our sonic environment and undertake the fine tuned mapping of environmental change is realistic and possible.
The Huangshan Dialogue brought together more than 150 participants – including 46 experts from countries around the world who discussed new research, cooperation and new initiatives that link UNESCO-designated sites to strengthen the global understanding of climate change.
Many of these participants were not aware of acoustic ecology and are now actively developing programs and initiatives. This has resulted in the possibilities of forming a WFAE affiliate in China and potentially India in the future. The new Biosphere Soundscapes community mapping system will launch in early 2017 when programs will be expanding into new sites in Portugal, Iran and the United Kingdom. The Biosphere Soundscapes team are extremely inspired about how receptive UNESCO has been with the possibilities of acoustic ecology and are looking forward to more collaborations unfolding in 2017 and beyond.
Image from left to right
Dr. Miguel Clusener-Godt, Director of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program, with researchers Dr. Andrew Mason, Dr. Francesca Cigna, Dr. Leah Barclay, Professor Shahbaz Khan (Director of the UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific), Professor Wang Changlin, Professor Kyung Sik Woo, and Professor Fan Xiangtao.
Photo: Yuyang Geng
We are thrilled to announce the successful applicants for the 2016 Biosphere Soundscapes International Internship program. Teresa Barrozo (Philippines) and Diana Peña (New Zealand / Mexico) will be joining us in 2016 to work on new projects exploring acoustic ecology and field recording practices. Both artists have been mentored through developing a 2016 project after submitting their successful applications earlier this year. The Biosphere Soundscapes International Internship program is a dynamic opportunity that involves a mixture of self-directed practice, mentored development and international collaborations. Our interns can design their own Biosphere Soundscapes lab or focus on a specific creative or scientific project. We accept applications from emerging artists, scientists and community leaders across the world and work collaboratively to develop projects that support innovative research and new ideas in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.
Teresa Barrozo (b.1982) is a sound artist, composer and curious listener based in Manila with a wide range of work for film, theatre and dance. Her compositions have been featured in the Asian Composers League Festivals in Japan and Thailand, and in the Asia-Pacific Weeks in Germany. Her film music works has been part of major international film festivals in Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Locarno and Berlin, to name a few. She was a recipient of the Ani ng Dangal Award from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (Philippines) and a fellow of the Asian Cultural Council (2014) in New York. Her fellowship focused on new music, sound art and design, performance, and contemporary sonic practices in listening, field recording, acoustic ecology, neuromusic, and electronic and computer music composition.
Influenced by new practices in contemporary art, tradition in aural orchestration and storytelling in cinema and theatre, Barrozo’s sound work expands to various disciplines, often exploring and exposing new perspectives in listening culture. She is interested in the dialogue between sound and man while investigating man’s relationship to itself and the environment.
Visit Teresa Barrozo's website here.
Diana Peña (b. 1983) is a Mexican field recordist and emergent sound artist born in Guadalajara and based in Auckland, New Zealand. She holds a International Business Bachelor and diploma in music from the University of Guadalajara in México. Self taught in sound studies and passionate of field recording, with a professional interest in acoustic ecology seeking to reflect and communicate the many aspects in life situations through sound. Her work consists in registration of everyday – seemingly inconsequential moments – that create in sum the relationship between herself, people, place and memory. She has undertaken field recording and sound art workshops with various local and international sound artists and has collaborated with other international field recording projects like Cities and Memories. Her current project is Travesía Sonora, a map of personal memories that create a unique tour of diverse soundscapes fed by the context of each recorded sound. She is an active listener and experiences soundwalks as a creative process for awareness and inspiration.
Visit Diana Peña's website here.
Fonoteca Nacional and Biosphere Soundscapes are calling for participants for the inaugural residency in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in 2015.
As part of the Mexican Soundscape project, Fonoteca Nacional is working in collaboration with Biosphere Soundscapes to produce an artistic residence and interdisciplinary laboratory focusing on the creative and scientific possibilities of listening. Biosphere Soundscapes is designed to inspire communities across the world to listen to the environment and explore the value of sound as a measure for environmental health and ecological engagement in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The inaugural residency in Mexico will be centered on sonic exploration of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
This residency is part of an educational program designed by Biosphere Soundscapes with a focus on collaboration, experimentation and exploration. This interdisciplinary learning laboratory will involve participants exploring the environment through sound, learning about the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve and collaborating with a dynamic team at the intersection of art, science and technology.
This open call is aimed at artists, scientists, researchers and other professionals working with sound. Applicants should have an interest in acoustic ecology, bioacoustics, field recording or other fields working with environmental sound.
The residency will take place over 10 days and will involve daily field recording sessions accompanied by interdisciplinary workshops and presentations. Participants will learn about the biodiversity of each recording location through presentations with local scientists and conservationists. At the end of the residency participants will have the opportunity to share their creative or scientific discoveries during a showcase.
The residency will be guided by the Biosphere Soundscapes team along with guest artists, specialists from Fonoteca Nacional and scientists from the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
As a result of this open call, six participants will be selected, three of which will be Mexican nationals and three internationals. The residency will cover the costs of accommodation, food and local transport for the duration of the residence for three selected participants through a full scholarship and a subsided scholarship for the three remaining participants. The costs of international travel to Quintana Roo are to be covered by the participants.
Read the full call for participation here
River Listening is an interdisciplinary collaboration designed to explore the creative possibilities of aquatic bioacoustics and the potential for new approaches in the conservation of global river systems. The project is led by the Biosphere Soundscapes founding director Australian interdisciplinary artist Dr. Leah Barclay. It was developed in collaboration with The Australian Rivers Institute across four Queensland river systems, two of which flow through the Noosa Biosphere Reserve and the Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve. Dr. Leah Barclay was awarded a prestigious Synapse grant in 2014 to support the development of River Listening across the the Brisbane River, the Mary River, the Noosa River and the Logan River.
Synapse is an initiative of the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australia Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) that supports collaborations between artists and scientists in Australia. River Listening involves immersive community engagement through interactive listening labs, field recording, sound maps, performances and installations to experiment with digital technologies and creativity in understanding river health and aquatic biodiversity. The project recognises the critical value of river systems and offers a fresh alternative in inspiring local and global communities to engage in river conservation through accessible digital technologies, creativity, music and sound.
In our current state of environmental crisis, biodiversity assessment is critical to understanding the rapid ecological changes taking place across the globe. In the last ten years, there has been a strong emergence of non-invasive monitoring involving auditory recordings of the environment. This emerging field is commonly referred to as soundscape ecology and shares many parallels with other fields, including bioacoustics and acoustic ecology. These fields have an array of creative possibilities that have been deeply explored by practitioners including Bernie Krause, Ros Bandt and Garth Paine. There are now a growing number of international projects embracing auditory monitoring in aquatic environments.
River Listening launched on the iconic River Thames in London during the 25th Anniversary of the EVA London International Conference in June 2014. It was developed as a pilot across four Queensland river systems: the Brisbane River, the Mary River, the Noosa River and the Logan River through intensive community engagement resulting in a wide spectrum of partnerships with community organisations. The initial phase of the project has involved listening labs, field recording, sound maps, performances and installations to experiment with hydrophonic recording, virtual technologies and community engagement in understanding river health. In the first six months the River Listening team have expanded the project internationally with partnerships formed across Australia, New Zealand, India, Cambodia, USA and Mexico. Particular highlights include launching a new masterclass series with UNESCO, premiering the River Listening sound installation at the ASU Art Museum in the USA and launching the first version of a new interactive sound installation at the Mary River Festival in Queensland.
2015 will see the launch of a customised River Listening digital platform and mobile applications for recording and listening to rivers across the world. The mobile application will facilitate creative collaborations and enable community members to become river custodians by monitoring river sounds and sharing their recordings with artists and scientists. The project team are also launching a touring exhibition and masterclass series that will explore rivers as the lifeblood of communities and draw on ten years of collaborations with river systems across the world.
As the international interest in the emerging auditory fields of bioacoustics and acoustic ecology continues to expand, there are clear opportunities to harness virtual technologies to develop accessible community engagement around the creative and scientific possibilities of listening to the environment. River Listening provides a model to develop a truly interdisciplinary approach with a strong focus on immersive community engagement. It is anticipated the future results will be beneficial to national ecosystem monitoring programs for river health. This project is a catalyst for interdisciplinary thinking at a time when the conservation and management of aquatic ecosystems is a critical priority. River Listening fundamentally explores the creative possibilities of aquatic bioacoustics and the potential for new approaches in the management and conservation of global river systems. River Listening is underpinned by inspiring environmental stewardship, revaluing urban river systems and connecting communities through music and sound.