Lindsay Olson – Sound in The Sea: The Art and Science of Ocean Acoustics

  • Oct. 17, 2022, 7:30 am US/Central

Lindsay’s artistic practice grows out of an intense curiosity about the ways our society is supported by science and technology. She has worked as Fermi National Accelerator’s first artist in residence, with the CMS experiment at CERN in Switzerland, with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the Field Museum, the Chicago Botanic Garden and with the Center for Acoustics Research and Education at the University of New Hampshire. Her work is currently touring in Europe, and has been shown at Woman Made Gallery, Zhou Brothers Art Gallery, the Field Museum, Illinois Institute of Technology, and the University of New Hampshire.  She speaks about her projects widely including the Textile Society of America 2020 symposium, the University of Illinois Saturday Physics for Everyone, the Field Museum’s Women in Science lecture series, The Chicago Council of Science and Technology, the Chicago Cultural Center’s Lake FX event, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and many other venues. Her work has been featured in Scientific American, Physics Teacher Magazine, Sci/Art Magazine, Surface Design Journal and Textile  Lindsay taught in the Fashion Studies Department at Columbia College Chicago for over 20 years. She is currently serving as the first artist in residence with The Wetlands Initiative.  When not visiting a lab or working in the studio, she can be found canoeing with her husband on one of Chicago’s many area waterways.

Special thanks to Dr. Jen Miksis-Olds, University of New Hampshire and the Center for Acoustics Research and Education for their support of this project, also Dr. Joseph Warren and Dr. Derek Olson.



We are visual creatures. But underwater, visibility falls off dramatically and the kinds of visual observations that biologists use to study terrestrial ecosystems are not practical. Studying what is happening under the ocean requires a different approach. Ocean Acoustics uses sound to listen in to what’s happening and collect data that illuminates life in the ocean. Land ecologists study landscape, geology and weather.  Ocean acousticians study soundscapes. This project makes visible the invisible world of sound in the sea. I created densely embroidered silk panels that help describe what researchers are discovering. The work illustrates the largest daily migration of zooplankton, the sound-enhancing SOFAR channel, phytoplankton, the dramatic vocalizations of marine life gathered by hydrophones. I drew inspiration from the work of the Swiss embroidery artist Lissy Funk and the elite artists of Mayan classical period with their profound, symbolic connection to water.



Statement for The Plankton Project

This artwork makes visible the invisible denizens of the plankton, a diverse group of ocean drifters (fish larvae, squids, phytoplankton, copepods, crustaceans, salps, and jelly fish) that occupy the top 200 meters of the ocean. Zooplankton form the foundation of the entire food chain for  the world’s oceans. Using antique silk kimonos, cottons, embroidery and beading, this work sheds light on a hidden world and reveals their dramatic daily struggle to survive. As these imperiled organisms struggle with rising sea temperatures and increasing ocean acidification, the fate of our oceans is intimately tied to their survival and ultimately our own.




To learn more about her sci/art work or connect
Instagram @lindsayolson816