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A Quantitative Study of Underwater Soundscape
in Inuit Waters of Nunavut, Canada 


Listening to the Arctic is a collaborative project that was initiated in 2018 at UC San Diego between marine acoustician Dr. Joshua Jones (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Professor Lei Liang (Music Department) and Dr. Theocharis Papatrechas (Music Department, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Qualcomm Institute). The project involves quantitative research on underwater acoustic data captured by hydrophones in the Arctic Ocean.

The research is carried out based from Inuit communities in the North Baffin region and is aimed at facilitating decision-making by community organizations regarding wildlife management and economic development.

This is an area that is experiencing rapid change not only from changing sea ice and climate, but also due to the development of a large-scale industrial mining project in the area. Iron ore is mined and shipped to market via a northern sea route that goes through the Inuit waters of Eclipse Sound. Inuit rely on the harvest of marine mammals and other wildlife for their subsistence an important aspect of their culture.

The team utilizes underwater acoustic data to create 3D immersive auditory experiences, replicating the underwater environment, making the unseen and unheard audible for the public to get familiar and engage with. Most importantly, the team materializes the results of current acoustic research on the impacts of human activity and environmental change on underwater life in the Arctic, advocating for climate awareness.


A stepwise methodology has been developed to replicate underwater soundscapes in 3D that involves:

1) technical sound design work to isolate signals of interest

2) recreating the ambient sound through translating sound pressure measurements in water into comparable levels in air for the human hearing system

3) placing the characters in the soundscape

Here is a snippet of the first step of that methodology:


Step 1: Technical Sound Design to Isolate Signals of Interest

Pod of Beluga Whales
Season 2 "Upingaaq"
Recorded on May 22, 2016
Raw Recording
00:00 / 00:28
Final Designed Product
00:00 / 00:28
Bowhead Whale
Season 2 "Upingaaq"
Recorded on May 25, 2016
Raw Recording
00:00 / 00:20
Final Designed Product
00:00 / 00:20
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