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Maryland artist and scientist team up to visualize Chesapeake Bay

September 10, 2021

Augmented reality reveals microscopic life through creative stories, images and sounds

This fall, visitors to the Inner Harbor will be able to view life in the Chesapeake Bay in a new way. On October 9, 2021 from 1-4 pm, water itself will tell the story of life under the Chesapeake Bay in an augmented reality (AR) project called “Under the Bay.” Users will hold their phone like a microscope over water in the Inner Harbor near the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) and animated micro-organisms will appear in their camera view. These animations will change color when conditions in the Bay change. Stories and music will connect memory, science, and anecdotal observation.

’Under the Bay’ will tell a unique story for every user, changing over time, over seasons, but always from the viewpoint of the water itself,” said IMET artist-in-residence Lisa Moren. “The microscopic dinoflagellates represented in AR are hundreds of millions of years old, and because they are at the very bottom of the food chain, they are important to all marine life.”

Live sensors in the Chesapeake Bay direct how the organisms appear and how the story is told. In addition to undulating forms and color, originally composed music will change in pitch and tempo based on the water conditions. Stories will describe the amazing survival strategies of these unicellular creatures called dinoflagellates that make their own light, food and energy when water conditions are favorable. When severe oxygen deprivation occurs in the water, voiceover stories of survival become choppy, fragmented, even choking.

The project was created by Lisa Moren, a multi-disciplinary artist from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who works with emerging media, public space and works-on-paper  and Tsvetan Bachvaroff  a research professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. His research focuses on the evolution and biology of dinoflagellates, which are known for causing ‘red tides’ or harmful blooms. The sound score is by Baltimore electronic music Dan Deacon, and the app was developed by Marc Olano, associate professor director of the Computer Science Game Development Track  at UMBC.

The first chance to see this augmented reality art and science project is October 9, 2021 from 1-4pm outside the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at 701 East Pratt Street, Baltimore. View a trailer for the project at Lisamoren.com/underthebay.

In the final project, a user will be able to download “Under the Bay” a free AR app and hold up a camera view of their phone over the water, creating a kind of microscope that reveals an invisible world of amazing critters living under the surface of the Bay. Dozens of tiny microorganisms, too small for the human eye to see, will appear beautiful, large, and changing in color over their field of view. Their stories will be told by the water itself. When the water is healthy, the organisms appear swimming and billowing over their field of view like a happy jellyfish. When the water is unhealthy, the organisms become shriveled like a discarded plastic bag in the water.

The project was created by Lisa Moren, a multi-disciplinary artist from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who works with emerging media, public space and works-on-paper  and Tsvetan Bachvaroff  a research professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. His research focuses on the evolution and biology of dinoflagellates, which are known for causing ‘red tides’ or harmful blooms. The sound score is by Baltimore electronic music Dan Deacon, and the app was developed by Marc Olano, associate professor director of the Computer Science Game Development Track  at UMBC.

The first chance to see this augmented reality art and science project is October 9, 2021 from 1-4pm outside the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at 701 East Pratt Street, Baltimore. View a trailer for the project at Lisamoren.com/underthebay.

In the final project, a user will be able to download “Under the Bay” a free AR app and hold up a camera view of their phone over the water, creating a kind of microscope that reveals an invisible world of amazing critters living under the surface of the Bay. Dozens of tiny microorganisms, too small for the human eye to see, will appear beautiful, large, and changing in color over their field of view. Their stories will be told by the water itself. When the water is healthy, the organisms appear swimming and billowing over their field of view like a happy jellyfish. When the water is unhealthy, the organisms become shriveled like a discarded plastic bag in the water.