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Marine scientists’ innovative solution to unlock curious minds

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13 November 2020

Marine scientists from the University of Auckland’s Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre are finding innovative ways to inspire a new generation of marine biologists and conservationists. With the support of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), they have created a New Zealand Underwater Soundscapes website that teaches users to create an underwater microphone (hydrophone). The website also has a map of New Zealand where resulting recordings can be pinned, giving a publicly accessible audio archive of the sounds of New Zealand sea life. In Beta testing, recordings so far have included sounds from the depths of Robinson Bay, a Bryde’s whale in the Jellicoe Channel, snapping shrimp near Waiheke Island and a paddle crab at Leigh. 

Manager of the Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre Tim Haggitt says that the purpose of the project is to create a tool to support the outreach, engagement and curatorial work that they do. “It’s a way to make students or the general public feel that they’re actively engaged with science”. New Zealand’s teachers can utilise the website to create practical experiences that teach the principles of being a scientist such as observing and recording. It’s also a vehicle with which to inspire a care of our precious natural resources through insight into the fascinating world of sea creatures. Marine animals make and use sound to gather information, communicate, locate food and shelter, attract mates and ward off predators. Community participants in the project so far have included a PhD candidate based at Leigh, and secondary school students from Waiheke High School, Horizon School at Snells Beach, Hobsonville Point Secondary School and Marlborough College in Blenheim. Outreach with further schools is planned. Tim says “We want to eventually develop a toolbox that we will roll out to schools nationally”.

The project was first enabled by an MBIE Unlocking Curious Minds grant – a contestable fund that supports innovative, quality projects which provide more New Zealanders with opportunities to learn about and engage with science and technology. Staff at the Leigh Marine Discovery Centre were ecstatic to have the support to work on the engagement project they had dreamt up, but weren’t sure about the next steps of bringing their idea to life. Curator Angela Rapson happened upon the online workshops that staff at CIE ran during lockdown and booked a place on a Web Development Basics workshop. Unleash Space Technician Hayden Moore gave Angela an overview of the principles of coding, and after learning about the inspirational project she was working on stayed in touch to help further. Angela says “We would not have been able to do this project without the support of Unleash Space. This is completely new technology for us.” Hayden says “It was inspiring to see how with an introduction to a topic like website coding and a little nudge in the right direction Angela could create a fully functional website that serves her purpose.”

From their initial interaction through the online workshops, and with lockdown now over, the team at the Leigh Marine Discovery Centre are now taking workshops to learn to use the physical prototyping tools at Unleash Space such as laser cutters and 3D printers. They intend to make use of the equipment for use for interpretive signage and displays at the Centre. Angela says “Our visitors want tactile learning experiences and this is going to be really helpful”. Ideas they are currently exploring include mechanical sea urchin and augmented reality displays. They will also look to see how they can make use of the facilities at Unleash Space to design and fabricate toolboxes to roll out to schools.

Nicholas Bing
Nicholas Bing

social media

13 November 2020

Marine scientists from the University of Auckland’s Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre are finding innovative ways to inspire a new generation of marine biologists and conservationists. With the support of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), they have created a New Zealand Underwater Soundscapes website that teaches users to create an underwater microphone (hydrophone). The website also has a map of New Zealand where resulting recordings can be pinned, giving a publicly accessible audio archive of the sounds of New Zealand sea life. In Beta testing, recordings so far have included sounds from the depths of Robinson Bay, a Bryde’s whale in the Jellicoe Channel, snapping shrimp near Waiheke Island and a paddle crab at Leigh. 

Manager of the Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre Tim Haggitt says that the purpose of the project is to create a tool to support the outreach, engagement and curatorial work that they do. “It’s a way to make students or the general public feel that they’re actively engaged with science”. New Zealand’s teachers can utilise the website to create practical experiences that teach the principles of being a scientist such as observing and recording. It’s also a vehicle with which to inspire a care of our precious natural resources through insight into the fascinating world of sea creatures. Marine animals make and use sound to gather information, communicate, locate food and shelter, attract mates and ward off predators. Community participants in the project so far have included a PhD candidate based at Leigh, and secondary school students from Waiheke High School, Horizon School at Snells Beach, Hobsonville Point Secondary School and Marlborough College in Blenheim. Outreach with further schools is planned. Tim says “We want to eventually develop a toolbox that we will roll out to schools nationally”.

The project was first enabled by an MBIE Unlocking Curious Minds grant – a contestable fund that supports innovative, quality projects which provide more New Zealanders with opportunities to learn about and engage with science and technology. Staff at the Leigh Marine Discovery Centre were ecstatic to have the support to work on the engagement project they had dreamt up, but weren’t sure about the next steps of bringing their idea to life. Curator Angela Rapson happened upon the online workshops that staff at CIE ran during lockdown and booked a place on a Web Development Basics workshop. Unleash Space Technician Hayden Moore gave Angela an overview of the principles of coding, and after learning about the inspirational project she was working on stayed in touch to help further. Angela says “We would not have been able to do this project without the support of Unleash Space. This is completely new technology for us.” Hayden says “It was inspiring to see how with an introduction to a topic like website coding and a little nudge in the right direction Angela could create a fully functional website that serves her purpose.”

From their initial interaction through the online workshops, and with lockdown now over, the team at the Leigh Marine Discovery Centre are now taking workshops to learn to use the physical prototyping tools at Unleash Space such as laser cutters and 3D printers. They intend to make use of the equipment for use for interpretive signage and displays at the Centre. Angela says “Our visitors want tactile learning experiences and this is going to be really helpful”. Ideas they are currently exploring include mechanical sea urchin and augmented reality displays. They will also look to see how they can make use of the facilities at Unleash Space to design and fabricate toolboxes to roll out to schools.


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