Kayaking to an exclusive live-marine soundtrack while taking part in important environmental research? Yes please!

Conceived by researchers at FoAM Kernow and the Bicrophonic Research Institute, the Sonic Kayaks project was launched at the British Science Festival in Swansea 2016. The citizen science approach to collecting valuable aquatic microclimate data was a roaring success, attracting science and non-science enthusiasts alike.

The team behind it have now released instructions on how to build the hardware and open-source software in PLOS Biology, meaning that users can adapt the software for their own needs, whether that be for scientific research or for use as a sound-art installation. It can even be adapted for avid hobbyists!

The Sonic Kayaks in action at the British Science Festival in Swansea, 2016

The project works by rigging kayaks with underwater sensors and GPS systems which explore the underwater climate while allowing citizens to gather important climate and environmental data.

The live marine soundtrack allows paddlers to hear sounds from under the water which change based on location and rises and falls of the water temperature, ensuring no paddling trip sounds the same.

The appeal of the transdisciplinary project is wide ranging, and it was well received in Swansea where anyone could participate. It merges the approaches of biosciences, remote sensing, sound art, coding and sports, resulting in a project which is every bit as fun as it is important.

Every year, we take our Festival to a new city, bringing an inspiring programme of free events to the public, bursting with opportunities to get involved in. Our events span a diverse range of subjects that encompass science in the broadest sense, providing something for everyone. It’s also a space which gives freedom for projects to be innovative, especially with the use of citizen science.

Citizen science projects such as Sonic Kayak help fulfil our objective of bringing science to the wider public, in places they might not necessarily expect it, showing that you don’t have to be scientist to engage – and have fun – with science.

Click here to read the paper published by PLOS Biology