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.


Matthew Burtner

Matthew Burtner is an Alaskan-born composer, sound artist and eco-acoustician whose music and research explores embodiment, ecology, polytemporality and noise.

Willis Jenkins

Willis Jenkins is Convener of Environmental Humanities at UVA and Professor of Religious Studies.

Matt Reidenbach

My primary area of research is environmental fluid dynamics, with an emphasis on fluid-biological interactions in coastal environments. Project: Coastal Soundscapes and Oyster Reef Health

Martin Volaric

My PhD research focuses on the oxygen metabolism and hydrodynamics of intertidal ecosystems on the Virginia coast, particularly oyster reefs. Project: Coastal Soundscapes and Oyster Reef Health

Karen McGlathery

Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences; Director, Environmental Resilience Institute Karen is Lead Investigator of the Virginia Coast Reserve (VCR) Long Term Ecological Research Program at UVA’s coastal research lab on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Jonathan Cannon

Jonathan Cannon is the Blaine T. Phillips Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, where he also serves as director of the law school’s environmental and land use law program.

Eli Stine

Eli Stine is a composer, programmer, and educator. Stine is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Oberlin Conservatory. Project: Coastal Soundscapes and Oyster Reef Health

Christopher Luna-Mega

Christopher Luna-Mega is a composer and improviser. Born in the United States and raised in Mexico City, he studied Composition at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México –UNAM (B.M.) and Mills College (M.A.), as well as Film/Communication Theory at the Universidad Iberoamericana –UIA, Mexico City (B.A.).

Charlotte Rogers

Charlotte Rogers is Assistant Professor of Spanish in the department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Her research examines representations of the tropics in contemporary Latin American literature and culture, often with an ecocritical focus. Project: The Power of the Arts in the Hurricane Zone

Andrew Kahrl

Associate Professor of History and African American Studies Area of research: coastal land use, real estate development, and conservation in the 20th century US Project: “(Don’t) Drain the Swamp: Resort Development, Wetlands Protection, and the Politics of Growth on the Delmarva Peninsula”

Beth Roach

Beth Roach is a storyteller, climate action organizer, and surfer who is enrolled in the Nottoway Indian Tribe of VA and serves on Tribal Council. Her background is rooted in work with Virginia State Parks and the James River Watershed, and she serves as vice-chair on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice.

Cora Johnston

Cora Johnston is site director of the Coastal Research Center. Her background is in the community ecology of changing coastal systems and she directs the VCR-LTER’s outreach and education programs and serves as liaison to the Eastern Shore community.

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