Listening for Coastal Futures

The Coastal Futures Conservatory integrates arts and humanities into the investigation of coastal change. Working with scientists at the Virginia Coastal Reserve, an NSF-supported Long-Term Ecological Research site, the Conservatory aims to deepen understanding and stimulate imagination by opening ways to listen to the dynamics reshaping coasts.

Thanks to Max Castorani (Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences at UVA) for the drone photography of the Virginia Coastal Reserve.


Why call our project a conservatory?

The CFC is a member of the North American Environmental Humanities Observatory. We pivot from the ocular metaphor of the observatory to the aural metaphor of conservatory in order to emphasize our focus on listening. Sharing a semantic root with “conservation,” a conservatory usually means a school of music or a greenhouse. The Coastal Futures Conservatory draws on all three meanings: a school of music that teaches participants how to listen to and compose with the living world, a school of science that connects conservation with culture, and a school of living that cultivates a wide range of cultural capacities to respond to changing Earth.

What does it mean to listen for coastal futures?

Listening is a form of inquiry that can immerse hearers in a living environment and connect people across boundaries. The Conservatory organizes collaborative inquiry around listening in three ways:

  • to environmental sound through field recordings and designed listening stations
  • to the sciences of coastal change, by sonifying data, composing with it, and creating public events in which audiences can interact with research
  • to one another, across disciplines and cultures, as we seek to understand coastal futures from multiple ways of knowing
The Conservatory