research, sketches, ideas, questions

Month: October, 2012

More songs about flooding and water

by andisutton

Hip Hop artists respond to Hurricane Katrina

Song list:
Mos Def – “Dollar Day for New Orleans… Katrina Klap”

Lil Wayne – “Georgia Bush”

Lil Wayne (feat Robin Thicke) – “Tie My Hands”

Jay Z (feat. Neyo) – “Minority Report”

Papoose & Razah – “Mother Nature”

B. Down & Big Rags – “Katrina”

Jay Electronica – “… When the Levees Broke”

Legendary K.O. – “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People” | Listen |

Public Enemy – “Hell No, We Ain’t Alright” | Listen |

Juvenile – “Get Ya Hustle On” | Listen |

OutKast ft. Lil’ Wayne and Snoop Dogg – “Hollywood Divorce”

On the lighter side… Children’s songs about marshes

Roger Day, “Marsh Madness”


JRR Tolkein weighs in: Gollum’s Song in the Dead Marshes

The cold hard lands
they bites our hands,
they gnaws our feet.
The rocks and stones
are like old bones
all bare of meat.
But stream and pool
is wet and cool:
so nice for feet!
And now we wish –

Alive without breath;
as cold as death;
never thirsting, ever drinking
clad in mail, never clinking.
Drowns on dry land,
thinks an island
is a mountain;
thinks a fountain
is a puff of air.
So sleek, so fair!
What a joy to meet!
We only wish
to catch a fish,
so juicy-sweet!


Centuries of Human-Driven Change in Salt Marsh Ecosystems

by andisutton

Perhaps something for the radio?


Centuries of Human-Driven Change in Salt Marsh Ecosystems

K. Bromberg Gedan,1 B.R. Silliman,2

and M.D. Bertness1

1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912; email: Keryn, Mark

2Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611; email:


Salt marshes are among the most abundant, fertile, and accessible coastal habitats on earth, and they provide more ecosystem services to coastal pop- ulations than any other environment. Since the Middle Ages, humans have manipulated salt marshes at a grand scale, altering species composition, distribution, and ecosystem function. Here, we review historic and contem- porary human activities in marsh ecosystems—exploitation of plant prod- ucts; conversion to farmland, salt works, and urban land; introduction of non-native species; alteration of coastal hydrology; and metal and nutrient pollution. Unexpectedly, diverse types of impacts can have a similar conse- quence, turning salt marsh food webs upside down, dramatically increasing top down control. Of the various impacts, invasive species, runaway con- sumer effects, and sea level rise represent the greatest threats to salt marsh ecosystems. We conclude that the best way to protect salt marshes and the services they provide is through the integrated approach of ecosystem-based management.

a story for the marsh, sad

by studiojane

A Marshland Elegy

Aldo Leopold

from A Sand County Almanac, 1948

A dawn wind stirs on the great marsh. With almost imperceptible slowness it rolls a bank of fog across the wide morass like the white ghost of a glacier the mists advance, riding over phalanxes of tamarack, sliding across bog meadows heavy with dew. A single silence hangs from horizon to horizon.

Out of some far recess of the sky a tinkling of little bells falls soft upon the listening land. Then again silence. Now comes a baying of some sweet-throated hound, soon the clamor of a responding back. Then a far clear blast of hunting horns, out of the sky into the fog.

High horns, low horns, silence, and finally a pandemonium of trumpets, rattles, croaks , and cries that almost shakes the bog with its nearness, but without yet disclosing whence it comes. At last a glint of sun reveals the approach of a great echelon of birds. On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.

A sense of time lies thick and heavy on such a place. Yearly since the ice age it has wakened each spring to the clangor of cranes. The peat layers that comprise the bog are laid down in the basin of an ancient lake. The cranes stand, as it were, upon the sodden pages of their own history. These peats are the compressed remains of the mosses that clogged the pools, of the tamaracks that spread over the moss, of the ice sheet. An endless caravan of generations has built of its own bones this bridge into the future, this habitat where the oncoming host again may live and breed and die.

To what end? Out on the bog a crane, gulping some luckless frog, springs his ungainly hulk into the air and flails the morning sun with might wings. The tamaracks re-echo with his bugled certitude. He seems to know.

Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language. The quality of cranes lies, I think, in this higher gamut, as yet beyond the reach of words.

This much, though, can be said: our appreciation for the crane grows with the slow unraveling of earthly history. His tribe, we now know, stems out of the remote Eocene. The other members of the fauna in which he originated are long since entombed within the hills. When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our unatamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.

And so they live and have their being- these cranes – not in the constricted present, but in the wider reaches of evolutionary time. Their annual return is the ticking of the geological clock. Upon the place of their return they confer a peculiar distinction. Amid the endless mediocrity of the commonplace, a crane marsh holds a paleontological patent of nobility, won in the march of aeons, and revocable only by shotgun. The sadness discernible in some marshes arises, perhaps, from their once having harbored cranes. Now they stand humbled, adrift in history.

Some sense of this quality in cranes seems to have been felt by sportsmen and ornithologists of all ages. Upon such quarry as this the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick loosed his gyrfalcons. Upon such quarry as this once swooped the hawks of Kublai Khan. Marco Polo tells us: ‘He derives the highest amusement from sporting with gyrfalcons and hawks. At Changanor the Khan has a great Palace surrounded by a fine plain where are found cranes in great numbers. He causes millet and other grains to be sown in order that the birds may not want.’

When the glacier came down out of the north, crunching hills and gouging valleys, some adventuring rampart of the ice climbed the Baraboo Hills and fell back into the outlet gorge of the Wisconsin River. The swollen waters backed up and formed a lake half as long as the state, bordered on the east by cliffs of ice, and fed by the torrents that fell from melting mountains. The shorelines of this old lake are still visible; its bottom is the bottom of the great marsh.

The lake rose through the centuries, finally spilling over east of the Baraboo range. There it cut a new channel for the river, and thus drained itself. To the residual lagoons came the cranes, bugling the defeat of the retreating winter, summoning the on-creeping host of living things to their collective task of marsh-building. Floating bogs of sphagnum moss clogged the lowered waters, filled them. Sedge and leatherleaf, tamarack and spruce successively advanced over the bog, anchoring it by their root fabric, sucking out its water, making peat. The lagoons disappeared, but not the cranes. To the moss meadows that replaced the ancient waterways they returned each spring to dance and bugle and rear their gangling sorrel-colored young. These, albeit birds, are not properly called chicks, but colts. I cannot explain why. On some dewy June morning watch them gambol over their ancestral pastures at the heels of the roan mare, and you will see for yourself.

One year not long ago a French trapper in buckskins pushed his canoe up one of the moss-clogged creeks that threat the great marsh. At this attempt to invade their miry stronghold the cranes gave vent to loud and ribald laughter. A century or two later Englishmen came in covered wagons. They chopped clearings in the timbered moraines that border the marsh, and in them planted corn and buckwheat. They did not intend, like the Great Kahn at Changanor, to feed the cranes. But the cranes do not question the intent of glaciers, emperors, or pioneers. They ate the grain, and when some irate farmer failed to concede their usufruct in his corn, they trumpeted a warning and sailed across the marsh to another farm.

There was no alfalfa in those days, and the hill-farms made poor hay land, especially in dry years. One dry year someone set a fire in the tamaracks. The burn grew up quickly to bluejoint grass, which when cleared of dead trees, made a dependable hay meadow. After that, each August, men appeared to cut hay. In winter, after the cranes had gone South, they drove wagons over the frozen bogs and hauled hay to their farms in the hills. Yearly they plied the marsh with fire and axe, and in two short decades hay meadows dotted the whole expanse.

Each August when the haymakers came to pitch their camps, singing and drinking and lashing their teams with whip and tongue, the cranes whinnied to their colts and retreated to the far fastnesses. ‘Red shitepokes’ the haymakers called them, from the rusty hue which at that season often stains the battleship-gray of crane plumage. After the hay was stacked and the marsh again their own, the cranes returned, to call down out of October skies the migrant flocks from Canada. Together they wheeled over the new cut stubbles and raided the corn until frosts gave the signal for the winter exodus.

These haymeadow days were the Arcadian age for marsh dwellers. Man and beast, plant and soil lived on and with each other in mutual toleration, to the mutual benefit of all. The marsh might have kept on producing hay and prairie chickens, deer and muskrat, crane-music and cranberries forever.

The new overlords did not understand this. They did not include soil, plants, or birds in their ideas of mutuality. The dividends of such a balanced economy were too modest. They envisaged farms not only around, but in the marsh. An epidemic of ditch-digging and land-booming set in. The marsh was gridironed with drainage canals, speckled with new fields and farmsteads.

But crops were poor and beset by frosts, to which the expensive ditches added an aftermath of debt. Farmers moved out. Peat beds dried, shrank, caught fire. Sun-energy out of the Pleistocene shrouded the countryside in acrid smoke. No man raised his voice against the waste, only his nose against the smell. After a dry summer not even the winter snows could extinguish the smoldering marsh. Great pockmarks were burned into field and meadow, the scars reaching down to the sands of the old lake, peat-covered these hundred centuries. Rank weeds sprang out of the ashes, to be followed after a year or two by aspen scrub. The cranes were hard put, their numbers shrinking with the remnants of unburned meadow. For them, the song of the power shovel came near being an elegy. The high priests of progress knew nothing of cranes, and cared less. What is a species more or less among engineers? What good is an undrained marsh anyhow?

For a decade or two crops grew poorer, fires deeper, wood-fields larger and cranes scarcer, year by year. Only reflooding, it appeared, could keep the peat from burning. Meanwhile, cranberry growers had, by plugging drainage ditches, reflooded a few spots and obtained good yields. Distant politicians bugled about marginal land, over-production, unemployment relief, conservation. Economists and planners came to look at the marsh. Surveyors, technicians, CCC’s, buzzed about. A counter-epidemic of reflooding set in. Government bought land, resettled farmers, plugged ditches wholesale. Slowly the bogs are re-wetting. The fire pocks become ponds. Grass fires still burn, but they can no longer burn the wetted soil.

All this, once the CCC camps were gone, was good for cranes, but not so the thickets of scrub popple that spread inexorably over the old burns, and still less the maze of new roads that inevitably follow governmental conservation. To build a road is so much simpler than to think of what the country really needs. A roadless marsh is seemingly as worthless to the alphabetical conservationist as an undrained one was to the empire-builders. Solitude, was one natural resource still undowered of alphabets, is so far recognized as valuable only by ornithologists and cranes.

Thus does history, whether of marsh or marketplace, end in paradox. The ultimate value in these marshes is wildness, and the crane is wildness incarnate. But all conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.

Some day, perhaps in the very process of our benefactions, perhaps in the fullness of geological time, the last crane will trumpet his farewell and spiral skyward from the great marsh. High out of the clouds will fall the sound of hunting horns, the baying of the phantom pack, the tinkle of little bells, and then a silence never to be broken, unless perchance in some far pasture of the Milky Way.


listen on NPR

salt marshes ameliorate climate change

by studiojane

A warming climate and rising seas will enable salt marshes to more rapidly capture and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, possibly playing a role in slowing the rate of climate change, according to a new study led by a University of Virginia environmental scientist and published in the Sept. 27 issue of the journal Nature.

“One of the cool things about salt marshes is that they are perhaps the best example of an ecosystem that actually depends on carbon accumulation to survive climate change: The accumulation of roots in the soil builds their elevation, keeping the plants above the water,” Kirwan said.

Salt marshes store enormous quantities of carbon, essential to plant productivity, by, in essence, breathing in the atmospheric carbon and then using it to grow, flourish and increase the height of the soil. Even as the grasses die, the carbon remains trapped in the sediment. The researchers’ model predicts that under faster sea-level rise rates, salt marshes could bury up to four times as much carbon as they do now.

“Our work indicates that the value of these ecosystems in capturing atmospheric carbon might become much more important in the future, as the climate warms,” Kirwan said. But the study also shows that marshes can survive only moderate rates of sea level rise. If seas rise too quickly, the marshes could not increase their elevations at a rate rapid enough to stay above the rising water. And if marshes were to be overcome by fast-rising seas, they no longer could provide the carbon storage capacity that otherwise would help slow climate warming and the resulting rising water.


Science Daily, September 2012

degrading salt marshes

by studiojane

Salt marshes have been disintegrating and dying over the past two decades along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and other highly developed coastlines without anyone fully understanding why.

This week in the journal Nature, scientist Linda Deegan of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Mass., and colleagues report that nutrients–such as nitrogen and phosphorus from septic and sewer systems and lawn fertilizers–can cause salt marsh loss.
NSF article

songs about floods

by studiojane

Songs about flooding, climate, tides, harbors, marshes, islands, pirate radio

When the levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin
Thunder Island – Jay Ferguson

“Drowned” and “Water in the Sky” — Phish.
“God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters” – Moby

‘Down in the Flood’ ~ Sandy Denny
‘Cloudbusting’ ~ Kate Bush

when it rains, it pours, merle haggard

Five feet high and rising, johnny cash

Muddy waters, james Monroe

Texas Flood, Stevie Ray Vaughan

Here comes the flood peter Gabriel

Charlie Patton’s “High Water Everywhere.”

Los Angeles New Years Flood, Woody Guthrie

The Terrible Mississippi Flood, Arthur Fields



the project

by studiojane

Marsh Radio Island

Community Supported – Salt Marsh Flotant – Communication Station

Marsh Radio Island is a project that activates the interconnectedness of humans and plants in the urban port city ecosystem of Boston by deploying designed flotants (modular salt marsh habitats) for growing salt marsh plant species of the future.  It offers a practical design solution to flood-risk neighborhoods that incorporates performance, public intervention, and community engagement that considers anew the role plants play in protecting and supporting all life on the planet. These flotants increase biodiversity, improve water quality, and protect the shoreline. Built out of recycled materials, these structures will maintain salt marsh plant life from the Northeast and those from southeastern states like North and South Carolina, zones whose current climate reflects annual temperatures that could occur in Boston by the year 2050.

As a soft engineering solution, the goal of the piece is to serve as a foundation for personal, botanical, and imaginative growth through a compassion and empathy-based communication system.  Each flotant will include a community supported media campaign including a plant-focused mail system, a radio transmitter that sends and receives communication by plants and people, and maintenance tours that engage community members in the tending and transportation of the flotants to critical flood sites along the coast.  Building a relationship with the plants in this way allows communities to formulate a more intimate and immediate connection to the abstract complexities of large scale climate change and geoengineering solutions.

Gallery site visit: Photo Documentation

by andisutton

Flag sketch

by andisutton


Crochet Pattern Inspiration

by andisutton