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New Yorkers connect to underwater creatures


12 October 2009

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A new device will enable New Yorkers to communicate with underwater creatures through text messages. A series of plastic tubes placed in the Bronx and East River will help identify the animals and assess the water quality.

Are you worried about river wildlife in your area? Want to know if the animals are happy? If the water's clean enough?

Amphibious.jpg
Image credits: BBC/ The special tubes monitor activity below the river surface in New York's East River

Then maybe you should text them and ask!

That's what people living and working in New York can do thanks to Amphibious Architecture, a new experiment set up by students from New York University's Environmental Health Clinic and the Living Architecture Lab at Columbia University.

Conscientious commuters can text the beavers, herring or whatever is around and be told, on a good day: "There are 19 of us, and it's pretty good down here!"

Illuminating tubes

The system is built using a series of plastic tubes positioned vertically in the water at key positions in the Bronx and East River. Each time a creature swims below the buoy, the top of the tube lights up. A sonar device on the tube identifies what type of creature it is.

Whenever a person sends a text to the creatures, the other end of the tube will be illuminated too.

"The experiment goes beyond the novelty value and helps increase awareness surrounding the city's natural ecosystems"

The tubes also monitor the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water - a key indicator of water quality - which allows the animals to tell how happy they are.

Beautiful habitat

The creators of the project will be hoping that the experiment goes beyond the novelty value and helps increase awareness surrounding the city's natural ecosystems.

Natalie Jeremijenko, who runs the project, explained to the BBC World Service's Digital Planet why the project is important for New Yorkers.

"One of the primary goals is to change the view of this quite beautiful view into an understanding that this is not just a pretty reflective surface, but a habitat," she said.

"A teeming body that's alive with organisms whose health affects our health and our activities affect their health."

'Polluted!'

The BBC's Laura Sheeter found a confused but amused reaction to the project from New Yorkers.
"I don't know if I would try it, but who knows - it depends on how long I'm waiting for the bus," said one.

"What would the response be? Beep beep - 'Polluted! Get me to some fresh water!'"

Another was perhaps a bit more down to earth.
"How can you send a fish a text message?" she asked.

 
Source : BBC

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