Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Voices of the River"

For Jeff Santos, integrating his love of live sound and recording with his interest in hydrology is an easy combination.

“I’m recording a sound profile for different streams,” says Jeff. “I love being outdoors and sitting next to rivers.”

Jeff, a Wyoming EPSCoR Undergraduate Research Fellow, is studying the sounds of rivers and streams, analyzing data and working to find a correlation between the sounds of the water with the amount of flowing water. Since October 2013, Jeff has been collecting soundbytes and data on 4 rivers in the Laramie area.

 “My hope for this is to record these sounds of the rivers, these ‘voices of the rivers’ and see if there is a correlation between stream flow, or the volume of water in the river, and the pitch, amplitude and frequency of the sound the river gives off.”

To collect his data, Jeff rigs up a microphone to catch the sounds of the river.

“I take a stereo microphone and put it perpendicular to the stream,” Jeff says. “Then, I suspend it with a pulley system, so that I get the same section of water each time.”

Jeff Santos preparing to collect data
After he collects the sound, he analyzes it and compares his findings to other data to identify any correlation.

“After I collect the sound, I take it and put it through Waveform analysis software and filter out the background noise,” Jeff says. “Then, I compare those soundwaves to each of the times that I have recordings and see if the frequency, amplitude and pitch change in a specific pattern that I can compare to the stream flow measurements that are currently being done on that specific stream.”

After he completes his research, Jeff hopes to turn his findings into an interactive touchscreen display that he can take to conferences. He enjoys bringing the sounds of the rivers to others who may not have access to them.

“I’d like to make it mobile and create a sound dome, so that you have an isolation of sound and then you can interact with the screen,” says Jeff. “Then you can download the sounds from the website onto your computer or smartphone. Everyone can get the sounds.”

Jeff was recently awarded the Haub School Grant for Student Research and Creative Activities. This award will allow to Jeff to continue to focus on his research project as he continues his education.

By Robin Rasmussen
Photos courtesy of Jeff Santos

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