'Too Hot to Sing' Exhibit Showcases SLU Research
Too Hot to Sing, a new exhibit at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art (SLUMA) combines science, sight and sound to explore how global warming affects the abilities of animals to find suitable mates.
Too Hot to Sing grew out of research by Kasey Fowler-Finn, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in SLU's College of Arts and Sciences, about how global warming directly affects the abilities of animals to find suitable mates.
For the exhibition, Finn collaborated with sound artist Stephen Vitiello, whose recordings show how vibrational signals sound at different temperatures, and with Impact Media Lab, a creative agency for scientists.
Fowler-Finn’s study shows how climate change can impact mating success and, ultimately, survival of species that communicate through vibrations. It is important to note that more than 90 percent of insects use vibrations to communicate within and between species.
Vitiello and Fowler-Finn used a specialized laser recording device to record the sounds of insects as they moved on the stems and leaves of plants. Vitiello then manipulated the sound recordings to make them audible to humans.
This exhibition, a collaboration between a scientist and an artist brings climate change into sharp focus as one of the existential challenges humanity faces.
Want to Go?
Too Hot to Sing runs through Sunday, April 19.
Key Research Take-Aways
- Male treehoppers serenade potential mates with vibrational songs sent through plant stems and if female treehoppers’ interest is sparked, male-female duets ensue until mating occurs.
- The SLU research team wanted to know if temperature variation, as is increasing with global warming, could disrupt the insects’ reproduction due to its effects on male songs.
- The research team tested four groups of Enchenopa binotata treehoppers, measuring the frequency of male signals and the frequency most preferred by females across a range of temperatures from 18 to 36 degrees Celsius.
- Though the results showed a strong temperature effect on both male signals and female preferences, changes in male signals across temperatures were matched by changes in female preferences. Because the male and female insects both responded to temperature shifts together, changes in temperature did not significantly influence female mate choice or disrupt mating.