What’s the difference between “Spyro Gyra” and “spirogyra”? That’s the topic of discussion during a popular science and music podcast’s latest episode, which stars SUNY Oneonta campus community members and was recorded in front of a live audience on campus last month.
On Dec. 6, the A.J. Read Science Discovery Center served as a makeshift recording studio as Matt Whyte, host of the podcast “Sing for Science,” interviewed faculty and staff members Jeremy Wall and Holly Waterfield on tape for an episode called “Spyro Gyra: Catching The Sun (Harmful Algal Blooms with Holly Waterfield).”
Sing for Science—a top 10 music interview podcast on Apple podcasts—brings together musicians and scientists over a common subject and has featured artists such as Wilco, Sia, Mac Demarco, Norah Jones and more. Whyte, a musician himself, uses the lyrical content of songs as the launching pad for the musician and relevant scientist to have a conversation.
In the 40-minute “Spyro Gyra” episode, award-winning musician and associate professor of music Wall—a co-founder of jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra—and Waterfield, a scientist at SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station (BFS) in Cooperstown, talk with host Whyte about the intersection of science and music and, in particular, cover the height of the jazz fusion era, the process of composing, the ins and outs of lake formation, spirogyra algae, and harmful algal blooms or HABs, which have affected Cooperstown’s Otsego Lake in recent years. Waterfield monitors and studies these HABs as part of her role at the BFS.
“The podcast conversation will reach folks who may not otherwise find themselves thinking about lakes or water in the context of ecosystems or hydrology, and I think that is fantastic,” Waterfield said. “For me, having conversations like this is important for many reasons, but getting questions from people outside of your field of research is always enlightening…and helps to inform what information is getting out there and how can we do a better job of communicating with the public.”
Logan Mendez and Lily Pena, two students in Assistant Professor of Media Studies Chelsea McCracken’s Media Practicum class, which operates as the Oneonta Production Guild, assisted with the audio and video recording for the live event, which drew an audience of about 30 people. Student RJ Hargrave photographed the event.
“The students gained valuable experience at this event in learning how to set up cameras in the space and how to run the sound board (raising and lowering the volume on the participants' microphones as needed),” McCracken said. “The student running the board had never done so before, so this opportunity for supervised hands-on learning added another tool in their production toolkit!”