The College of Arts and Architecture

Mark Ballora

Mark Ballora

Congratulations to music technology professor Mark Ballora, who is the co-recipient of two $50,000 interdisciplinary seed grants awarded by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) and the Gulf Research Program. These are two of 21 such grants, totaling $1.55 million. Awarded on June 12, 2017, these competitive grants support collaborations and investigations resulting from “Discovering the Deep Blue Sea: Research, Innovation, Social Engagement,” the 14th annual Futures conference held in November 2016.

Ballora is Principal Investigator on a grant for a project titled “Layers of Meaning: How the Ocean’s Natural Acoustics and the Music of its Datasets Can Reveal Hidden Connections,” with marine biologist, underwater acoustician and cellist Heather Spence of Michelle’s Earth Foundation ( This audio product will present multiple layers of the ocean’s dynamics through sound, constructed through underwater acoustic recordings, electroacoustic sound graphs, and music composed from non-acoustic datasets. Science education personnel will also be employed to provide educational opportunities and assessment.

He is also co-Principal Investigator on a grant titled “Sonifications of Oxygen and Temperature Data in the Ocean: Creating a “Data Stethoscope” to Detect the Ocean’s Vital Signs,” on which he will work with Karen Wishner, professor of oceanography at University of Rhode Island. For this project, a “data stethoscope” will be created to translate into sound measurements of temperature, oxygen, and biomass collected from the ocean’s depths. The sonifications may reveal interactions between biological and physical properties of the ocean's oxygen-minimum zones that are not evident through visual graphs alone.

Major federal funding programs do not typically provide support in areas that are considered risky or unusual.  Futures grants aim to fill this critical gap in funding for bold new ideas. The seed grants allow investigators to recruit students and postdocs to the research effort, purchase new equipment, acquire preliminary data, develop prototypes of exhibits, or create new collaborative teams and modes of inquiry -- all of which can position the project to compete for larger awards from other public and private sources.

For more information, please access the Keck Futures Initiative website.