River Listening

River Listening is an interdisciplinary research project that explores the creative possibilities of aquatic bioacoustics and the potential for new approaches in the conservation of global river systems. It is directed by Dr Leah Barclay and was developed in collaboration with The Australian Rivers Institute across four Queensland river systems in 2014: the Brisbane River, the Mary River, the Noosa River and the Logan River.

River Listening inspires community engagement through interactive listening labs, field recordings, sound maps, immersive performances, interactive sound installations and virtual reality experiences. It combines digital technologies and creativity to further the understanding of river health and aquatic biodiversity. Recognising the critical value of river systems, it seeks to engage local and global communities in river conservation.


The photo above shows Leah Barclay listening to the Logan River.

tonleSapLy Sophanna listening to the Tonlé Sap river in Cambodia

As the international interest in the emerging auditory fields of bioacoustics and acoustic ecology continues to expand, there are clear opportunities to harness virtual technologies to develop accessible community engagement around the creative and scientific possibilities of listening to the environment. River Listening provides a model to develop a truly interdisciplinary approach with a strong focus on immersive community engagement. It is anticipated that the future results will be beneficial to national ecosystem monitoring programmes for river health. This project is a catalyst for interdisciplinary thinking at a time when the conservation and management of aquatic ecosystems is a critical priority. River Listening is underpinned by inspiring environmental stewardship, revaluing river systems and connecting communities through sound and creative technology.


In 2014, The Australian Rivers Institute (ARI) and Dr. Leah Barclay were awarded a prestigious Synapse grant to support the development of River Listening. Synapse is an initiative of the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australia Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) that supports collaborations between artists and scientists in Australia. This project extends Barclay’s long-term engagement in acoustic ecology to explore the creative possibilities of aquatic bioacoustics in collaboration with an interdisciplinary research team.
The core team currently working on River Listening includes Leah Barclay, Simon Linke and Toby Gifford.

Leah Barclay