Made at UCL


S2 Ep7: Getting Closer

UCL graduates Cassidy (Host-in-Residence) and Cerys (Series Producer) take you from Trafalgar Square to the rainforest as they explore Closeness.


In this episode, #MadeAtUCL is exploring Getting Closer! We hear about the incredible UCL work that is helping to protect Biodiversity, inform architecture and analyse how we interact with our smartphones. 

Below, you can also discover more about the stories and access the transcript

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Act 1 - Prof Alan Penn

Prof Alan Penn is a former Dean of the Bartlett faculty of the Built Environment (2009-19), he is a founding director of Space Syntax Ltd, and a board member of UCL Consultants Ltd. He is a member of the Space Syntax Laboratory within The Bartlett School of Architecture and holds a part time role as Chief Scientific Advisor at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.  

His research focuses on understanding the way that the design of the built environment affects the patterns of social and economic behaviour of organisations and communities. In order to investigate these questions he has developed both research methodologies and software tools. These are known as ‘space syntax’ methods. Current research includes the development of agent based simulations of human behaviour, the development of spatio-temporal representations of built environments, investigations of urban spatial networks and the application of these techniques in studies of urban sustainability in the broadest sense, covering social, economic, environmental and institutional dimensions.

Learn more about Professor Alan Penn's work here.


Prof Alan Penn headshot

Act 2 - Prof Daniel Miller

Prof Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at UCL. He is director of the Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing (ASSA) project and was director of the Why We Post project. ‘Why We Post’ focused on social media use around the world and the resulting books, published by UCL Press, amassed more than one million downloads.
He is author/editor/co-author of 43 books including How the World Changed Social Media (with 8 others), Social Media in an English Village, Tales from Facebook, Digital Anthropology (Ed. with H. Horst), The Comfort of Things, Stuff, A Theory of Shopping, Material Culture and Mass Consumption.

Learn more about Professor Daniel Miller's work here.


Prof Daniel Miller headshot


Act 3 - Guilherme Ferreira

Guilherme Ferreira is a research fellow at UCL’s Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research working on the Biome Health Project. His research focuses mostly on using camera trap data to investigate how wildlife responds to human pressure and environmental factors, particularly in Brazil but more recently also in Nepal and Kenya. 

Guilherme obtained his PhD degree at UCL studying the effectiveness of protected areas in safeguarding mammals in the Brazilian Cerrado and before moving to the UK worked for almost 10 years as a field ecologist and project manager in a small NGO that he helped to establish Brazil.

Learn more about Guilherme Ferreira's work here.


Guilherme Ferreira headshot



Blaukreuz Trafalgar Square 130406_london_trafalgarsquare_pos4
Glaneur de sons Pigeons taking off
Bkowshik Traffic Evening traffic at JP Nagar
InspectorJ (www.jshaw.co.uk) "Construction, Jackhammer Excavator, A.wav"
uEffects Camera Focusing and Shutter  
monica137142 fairies fountain underwater

Video extracts from The Global Smartphone:
Japan: Methods
Italy: Urban Digital Ethnography
Chile: Introduction to the Fieldsite
Ireland: Diedre
al-Quds: Laila's Smartphone
Cameroon: Smartphones
China: It Carries All of My Love
Uganda: Mobile Money in Uganda
Italy: My Smartphone
Brazil: Nutrition

Meditation clips supplied by the UCL Biome Health Project via Dr Guilherme Ferreira.



people, smartphone, space, sounds, borneo, research, area, biodiversity, ucl, forests, project, recordings, trafalgar square, traps, places, camera shutter, understand, camera, species, alan

Video extract, Professor Alan Penn, Professor Daniel Miller, Cassidy, Guilherme Ferreira

Cassidy  00:03
Hello, I'm Cassidy and welcome to the seventh episode of series to have made at UCL the podcast. This podcast explores the world of UCL through the groundbreaking research and vital community work conducted by our staff and students. 

Cassidy  00:21
Proximity is something that we are all very aware of these days. Hey, you reaching for that loaf of bread right in front of me? Yeah, you. Wait your turn, two meters, please. You may have guessed, I was not one of those people that was super excited about the lifting of restrictions. I felt safe in my COVID bubble with both of us wearing a mask. (Stranger Danger.) Though, admittedly, I did look forward to being able to be in close proximity to those I care about. The strictly digital interactions were getting old and depressing. So (big breath) since we are all dealing with our personal and societal mixed feelings on the lifting of restrictions and getting closer, we here at MadeAtUCL thought, why not explore this topic as a theme? 

Cassidy  01:09
In this month's episode, we're exploring proximity through relationships and spaces both public and remote. Our first guest is an architect who specializes in spatial design. In this segment, you'll learn why

Professor Alan Penn  01:21
Proximity is an important aspect of the way we conceive of space as personal space around ourselves...

Cassidy  01:31
Then we'll talk to an anthropologist who studies how different cultures utilize smartphones and discover why

Professor Daniel Miller  01:37
proximity is the basis of ethnography itself.

Cassidy  01:40
And finally, we'll talk to a research fellow who looks at how various nature reserves' biodiversity is impacted by visitors. He's also been working on a very unique project and through talking about this project, we'll find out why

Guilherme Ferreira  01:53
the remote sensors we use gives us some proximity to the things we are studying, and brings people closer to our research, to the environment where we are working. 

[theme music]

Cassidy  02:14
Let's get started...

Professor Alan Penn  02:16
Hello, I'm Alan Penn. I'm the Professor of Architectural and Urban Computing at the Bartlett at UCL.

Cassidy  02:25
Alan is also the co founder of Space Syntax, an organization that provides expertise in architecture and urban planning, and in his research, both in academia and business, his focus is on spatial design.

Professor Alan Penn  02:39
I'm interested in understanding how architecture works, you know, you visit places that you think "goodness me isn't that wonderful?" and they really seem to have an atmosphere that can be aweinspiring or could just be really nice. And you want to find a way of bottling it, you know, being able to reproduce it. And as a designing architect, that's what you you know, you hanker after, is being able to create the atmosphere of something that you've been really impressed with or affected by. But these things are never formulae, they're never very simple. They're very complex. The things that are always... the ones I find the most interesting tend to be things that have evolved over long histories and have a pattern or, you know, they've got a whole series of people have influenced them over time.

Cassidy  03:38
Speaking of evolving over long histories, Alan offers an example of a historical place you may recognize that he himself helped evolve...

[the sound of tourists and chatter recorded at Trafalagar Square]

Professor Alan Penn  03:48
The example that we often fall back on, because it was a really nice example is Trafalgar Square, which was the Millennium Project. And the idea was, Trafalgar Square used to be separated into an upper level in front of the National Gallery. And then a lower level or the body of the square, and a big wall separating the two there, maybe four or five meters high. And the body of the square never had anybody passing through it. It had tourists who would go in there and had pigeons [pigeons flying off], but all the Londoners walked around the outside edge, so everyone moving through to go to the surrounding streets and to go to the station and so forth, they walked around the edge, and there was no mixing between the tourists and the Londoners. So we studied that. And in fact, there was traffic [car horns/traffic sounds] all the way around all four sides of the square at the time, the cars and taxis driving around. And so it's a big roundabout. And that was one reason why nobody got into the square apart from tourists who have the time to cross the road. So we looked at that we studied how people were using the space and observed it and made the proposition that they demolish the wall [construction sounds] and create a staircase, and pedestrianize it, and it has transformed the space [traffic sounds fade to sounds of tourists]. So the space now has people moving through it, it's popular, the traffic has been removed from the north side and pedestrianized, which, in fact, was the start of the Congestion Charging Zone. And so that's had an effect all over London, because that's given wider pavements and more cycle paths and a whole range of things in London. And they all came out of that one project.

Cassidy  05:32
The space created in Trafalgar Square led to a much more utilizable space that the public can really enjoy now, and Alan talking about the opening up of Trafalgar Square, led to a discussion about the most important factor in space design.

Professor Alan Penn  05:47
I would say the main thing is not to... not to bound your space. So people say "a space"  in fact, what you're doing is you're designing something which fits into a whole pattern of space to which any individual space connects. So you don't just design a room, you design a room in a particular position within the house, or within the building and it's how it connects to everything else that's a key factor. One of the problems of architecture and architects is very often they'll draw a red line on the plan around their building site, and fail to think enough about everything else around that line. They think they're being paid to look at what's inside the line. In fact, it's how what you do inside the line relates to everything else that's outside the line that really matters. So it's the thinking about the whole rather than just the part or the relationship of the whole in the part is the key thing.

Cassidy  06:48
Yeah. Or like how like a kitchen might be open where you can see the living room and so maybe you could cook while you're watching TV or something. If you're thinking about outside of just the kitchen. Yeah?

Professor Alan Penn  07:00
Yes, I think that's right. I think I mean, one of the things that well, lots of people do is they think about they're going to move into a new house or a new apartment... one of the things I always sort of think about when going around and looking at them is what is it that is specific and idiosyncratic about the way this is laid out? Are there long lines of sight? Can you see from here through to the garden or from there into the living room? So somebody can be cooking in the kitchen, while other people are sitting in the living room and they're not separated, because there's a line of sight that passes through. And if you isolate them from each other, then there's only the one activity. But if you have more richness, then you have a greater potential for different kinds of activity and different ways of exploiting the space.

Cassidy  07:55
Before the interview ended, I felt like I couldn't let Alan go without getting a couple of questions in about the, you know, big deal thing that's going on right now... 

Cassidy  08:06
I wanted to also get into COVID-19, and how that's kind of affected things. So how has COVID-19 changed the way public spaces are being designed?

Professor Alan Penn  08:16
Do you know what? The Department of Transport in the first wave did some really interesting things where they, sort of, took road... more road space away from cars and put it into-over to pedestrians. And they did it for making space for socially distance queues and all sorts. It'll be really interesting to see whether or not that sticks as we come out of the pandemic. But there was... it was an absolute policy by the Department of Transport to take advantage of the opportunity of less traffic to experiment with what they could do to give more space to pedestrians and to cyclists. And I think that's been really successful. Certainly in London, it's made a difference. But I think that shift of roads and streets being much more than just about moving traffic through is really important for cities. You know, they're about socializing, and shopping and sitting and watching the world go by, and you don't really sit and want to watch cars go by, you want people. And so the ability to stop is all important.

Cassidy  09:20
Now that things are starting to open up again and we are learning how to live with COVID, is your Space Syntax team moving towards designing spaces that will facilitate safe in-person social networking to kind of help society connect again or is there another focus?

Professor Alan Penn  09:38
So I think we're really thinking about this issue because of the... well the nature of the pandemic raises the question of how should you live life in the future and there's a whole set of questions. One of those questions is will cities survive? Or will everybody go off and work from their, you know, their second homes in their country villages and not go to city centers anymore? Personally, I don't think that's, that's right. I think that people will go to cities and the cities will survive. They're a remarkably robust sort of form that is evolved over centuries. But I've no doubt that the nature of homes will change. So I think people have been doing it during lockdown. They've been adapting their homes to become places of work, as well as places of, you know, family and leisure. And it's very interesting to see how people have been doing that. There are some people who work in the kitchen and work from the kitchen. And so what does that mean? What does it mean about their family relations? If you've somebody who's sitting in the kitchen and working, doing their Zoom calls, or their Teams calls in the office, that stops anybody else in the house going in and make themselves a cup of coffee, because the kettle boiling will be disturbing. So we're thinking about all of those things. But thinking in particular about what does that mean for the design of space, and the space as architects is the real, the real space.

[theme music]

Cassidy  11:04
Now that we've met an architect who studies the proximity of people and shared spaces, let's move on to an anthropologist whose research methodology involves being in close proximity with his research subjects. This is 

Professor Daniel Miller  11:17
Daniel Miller. 

Cassidy  11:18
He's a

Professor Daniel Miller  11:19
Professor of Anthropology at University College London. I'm an anthropologist, I worked for many years on issues to do with our relationship to things and to consumption. And then as the digital became increasingly important, turned my attention to the use and consequences of digital technology. And the most recent research has been specifically on the impact of smartphones.

Cassidy  11:46
Smartphones are something that almost all of us use everyday for pretty much everything, from googling who that actor is on TV to updating our social media accounts to reading the news to buying sandwiches from Pret! Not to mention all the normal phone uses like calling and texting, we've become dependent on them. And this dependence has come at a cost. A cost at which Daniel is understandably concerned about.

Professor Daniel Miller  12:17
I feel worried that we're in an area like the smartphone where there is so many heated debates about the consequences of smartphones. Every day in the newspapers, you will see things about fake news and the impact of politics, or that it's undermining the family and that everybody's on the screen or there's psychological disorders, or it's addictive, and a tremendous amount of anxiety about the consequences of the smartphone. The point about our work is neither to support or negate any particular argument, our commitment has to be scholarship, our commitment has to be "hold on, we need to have also some studies who don't have kind of axes to grind, they aren't trying to make people anxious, or indeed alleviate that anxiety". And if we're going to understand any issue, it needs to have that broader context of what is this doing hundreds of times a day within people's lives.

Cassidy  13:23
To understand the impact these devices have, Daniel put together a team of 11 researchers and spread them across different areas around the globe.

Professor Daniel Miller  13:31
The whole point is really to make sure that we are representative of the world and not assuming that everybody is the same as ourselves. The first factor was to make sure that we had a global range, there will be people working in Chile, in Brazil, but there's also people working in China and Japan, and Africa, and Europe, and so forth.

Cassidy  13:52
And these researchers spent 16 months in these designated areas. 

Cassidy  13:57
And so during that 16 months, what are some of the things that people are doing, how are they getting themselves involved in the communities?

Professor Daniel Miller  14:07
The idea of anthropology and particularly ethnography…

Ethnography is a type of research practice that studies cultural phenomena from the study subject’s perspective.

Professor Daniel Miller  
is that you don't simply take people in terms of what they say. It's not based so much on questions and surveys and focus groups or even interviews. The key is what we call "participant observation". Because what you want is a sense of what people are actually doing, rather than what they claim about what they're actually doing. And for that you need to be present when they're doing it. So you start to get yourself involved in a community. 

Video extract  14:40
For the first two months of my 16 months fieldwork in Japan. I lived with a family in North Osaka. This allowed me to experience family life directly...

Video extract  14:48
During fieldwork in Nola. I lived in an apartment block characteristic of the area and this formed a rich and immersive way of sharing time and stories...

Video extract  14:57
An American Church was a good point to meet Peruvian migrants and get to know them. So we could live the experience from within...

Professor Daniel Miller  15:04
In my case, for example, the very first thing I did on sort of day two, I think was volunteering for the local theatre group. And that was great, because it turns out that there were long interludes for the volunteers when the play was actually going on. We'd spend like an hour and a half, just sitting around making the tea, etc. And you can get to know people. And when I say involving community, what you're also doing really is making friends. And when you're making friends, it means that you can start to do work at a deeper level, they start to trust you, they start to feel more comfortable, if you're actually involved in their own smartphone practices, you know, you could start to be on their WhatsApp groups, on their Facebook, etc, etc. And that allows you to actually know what they are in fact doing with the likes of Facebook and WhatsApp. And, actually, it's important because with something like smartphones, there is such a huge discrepancy between what people say and what they actually do. So typically, for example, for my older informants in Ireland, a lot of them would start by saying, "Oh, well, yeah, I use a smartphone. But you know, I try and keep it to voice and, and texting and you know, a couple of messaging services, I'm not too bothered by the smartphone", etc. After a while you realize they're using maybe 30 apps on the smartphone, and they're using them pretty constantly to do all sorts of other things. 

Video extract  16:23
[A participant from Al-Quds lists different apps that she uses including WhatsApp]

Professor Daniel Miller  16:30
So you have to be careful about what people say, it's often more to do with kind of justifying themselves or legitimating themselves.

Video extract  16:38
I have been known to spend six to seven hours per day, that's a lot of that's a lot of a big proportion. 

Cassidy  16:45
After spending 16 months in Ireland, collecting data, then analyzing that data, then writing academic papers on the subject, then even writing a book about it with the research team that was recently published by UCL, I wanted to know...

Cassidy  17:01
Has this research like changed your perspective on smartphones?

Professor Daniel Miller  17:05
It has I mean, I think that even though I use smartphones myself as much as everybody else does, I do not think I had appreciated just how tightly it has become kind of entwined in every aspect of life because there is so much that' so quickly taken for granted. And the problem partly is even the use of the word phone, because it's called a smartphone, we tend to think of it as a device for communication. But actually, once you start researching it, you realize that you could take a completely different area like transport, and it's not the same, when you're driving with GPS on your smartphone, as it was when you used an... you know, an A-Z. It's really cared your ability to get around. And equally, the fact that you can take an Uber through a smartphone app or plan your journeys or research a place you're going to. And there are many, many areas which have nothing to do with necessarily communication, you know, what we, what we thought of as uses of a phone that turn out to be ways in which the smartphone has changed our life 

Video extract  17:28
People have little money so they prefer phones than banks, because banks are very far from them and they close at 6…

Professor Daniel Miller  
… because it could equally well be the use of visual materials, the way we do research, the way we do our shopping. And I think it was hard to appreciate the sheer breadth of the smartphone's capacity for changing the way we do pretty much everything that we're engaged in day to day.

Cassidy  18:51
Do you think we as a society need to change the way we use or design our phones?

Professor Daniel Miller  18:57
So one of the things that came out of our research is that what makes the smartphone smart, is the creativity and the ingenuity of the user. A field in which that became very evident, was the field of health. Because we started our work thinking that we would assist in the development of what's called m-health "mobile health apps". And there are 1000s of these apps being developed, you know, to assist people with health. But we found actually, there was very limited usage of these things, in terms of particularly older people who are kind of unwilling to take on this kind of proliferation of bespoke specialist apps. Instead, we found something quite different.

Video extract  19:39
I found that they don't use this apps. Instead, the app they use the most is WhatsApp. WhatsApp is the app they feel more comfortable with and in some case, it is the only app they use. 

Professor Daniel Miller  19:54
So today, for example, almost immediately somebody falls ill, the friends relatives will form a WhatsApp group to organize their care for that person. But equally, you could use it in all sorts of ways for gaining information about health or sharing information about health. And actually, it's the... it's this usage, not the one invisaged by the designers that has turned out to be so important in terms of actual health benefits. So it really changes the whole relationship, actually, between research and policy, we found that what we needed to do as anthropologists was to document this usage and what you might call sort of the best practice of ordinary people. And one of the things we did was to create a 150 page manual on WhatsApp for health, which are not things that we came up with at all. It's simply things that the researcher in Brazil observed, as part of their ethnography, and realized, you know, these are really good ideas, and maybe other people would like to know about how to do it that way. And that I think, is one of the kind of more exciting things that really emerged from this research, because it may affect an awful lot of research in the future.

Cassidy  21:04
If you'd like to learn more about Daniel and his team's research, you can check out his book, The Global Amartphone, which is available online for free at UCLpress.co.uk.

Cassidy  21:15
And we hope it will give you a real new understanding of actually what a smartphone is, and particularly how its impacted on people's lives. We hope it's written in an accessible language, and a plus, it contains a whole lot of short films. So you actually get to see the people that we've worked with and hear them talking about their experiences themselves.

Cassidy  21:40
Go check it out. 

Cassidy  21:47
[sounds of the rainforest]

Cassidy  21:48
Now that we've looked at how the way we inhabit our digital selves is influenced by our cultural surroundings. Let's switch gears and talk about how the way we inhabit natural reserves affects the biodiversity in that area. Our last guest is

Guilherme Ferreira  22:03
Guilherme Ferreiara, it's Gee for short. I am a research fellow at UCL working at the biome health project,

Cassidy  22:12
Gee has dedicated his research to protecting biodiversity. Much of his work involves the use of camera traps to keep track of what animals are present in a given space. Though in this recent project, he has also been utilizing audio recordings. We'll get into how he captures these recordings and the very cool thing that he's been able to create with them later on. For now, let's learn a little about the project itself. Can you tell us a little bit about what the biome health project is and what it aims to do?

Guilherme Ferreira  22:47
The project tries to understand how biodiversity responds to human pressure, and how we can use conservation interventions to mitigate the impact of these pressures. So we do this by establishing field sites in different parts of the world. And in these areas, we conduct biodiversity surveys across a gradient of pressure. So for example, in Nepal, we survey subtropical forests with camera traps and acoustic recorders to survey subtropical forests across a gradient that goes from the National Park, the buffer zone of the National Park and areas outside this buffer zone where you have basically agricultural areas.

Cassidy  23:31
And you have any I can't remember how many hours worth of like data and stuff that you have to sift through, right?

Guilherme Ferreira  23:39
Yeah, we have millions of camera trap images and hundreds of hours of sound recordings from these places, from Kenya, Nepal, Borneo, and Fiji.

Cassidy  23:51
Oh wow. 

Guilherme Ferreira  23:52
Yeah. So it's a massive data set. And that's, that's one of the challenges we have in the end. It's almost a Big Data thing that we're working on.

Cassidy  24:00
Yeah. How did you collect the sounds?

Guilherme Ferreira  24:03
[Sounds of rain forest in Borneo including birds and frogs] Yeah, so these sounds come from the forest of Borneo. So in Borneo, we're working in partnership with Imperial College London. They've established a field experiment there, trying to understand how biodiversity respond to the fragmentation that's happening in the forests because of oil palm expansion. So we work in partnership with this team from Imperial College London led by Rob Ewers and they use small acoustic devices that will record sound clips, you can set the device to record for any amount of time you want. So we set them to record five minutes or 15 minutes clip, and they will record throughout the day across this gradient of forest degradation and then you start to understand how a healthy forests sounds like and how the sound will change as you go from the healthy forests to a more degraded forests to the oil palm,

Cassidy  25:03
Can you tell us some of the the sound differences you noticed between like healthy and not?

Guilherme Ferreira  25:10
There are two ways you can analyze this kind of audio data, you can either try to identify species, because many species will make sounds that you can tell which species they are. So some birds have very specific calls [bird call] and you can say this was bird X or this was bird Y. So, this is one way you analyze this data, you listen to the recordings, or you have a machine learning algorithm who will listen to the recordings and say, Bird X was here, it wasn't there. And then you try to from this path, and you start to understand how our species are responding to the deforestation gradient, for example. The other way is just to try to understand the soundscape in general, the whole sound, the whole sound of the system. So you can use some machine learning algorithms to say, okay, that's the sound of a healthy forest, because we survey like a large patch of protected forests. So that's how healthy forests should sound like. So let's see how this change across the grade and that you can just listen to the forest and tell the difference in forest quality, the status of the forest by the sound you're recording there.

Cassidy  26:19
That's really interesting, and I guess if you're thinking like a full sound like what's the big difference, it's hearing okay, and this one, we were able to pick up all these different species and then this other one, we hardly heard any species or there was only a couple of those in there. So maybe that would be like a... that would be an indication of the biome being affected.

Guilherme Ferreira  26:39
Yeah, because the forest degradation it caused the community of wildlife to change so some species will only occur in old growth forest and will not occur integrated forest and the other way around some some spaces we work integrated forest, in the oil palm plantation, but will be very rare, rare in old growth forest. So just by these difference in composition, like one species in the old growth forests, but not in the oil palm just by this difference in composition, you can start to tell the environments apart.

Cassidy  27:14
That's such a cool way of collecting that kind of data. And not, and not disturbing as much either I think because you're because you're leaving something there as opposed to having to necessarily follow a bunch of animals or maybe just disturb them but doing it in their own environment and not having to deal with researchers watching them.

Guilherme Ferreira  27:37
That's basically the approach we have throughout the project. In Borneo, we use these acoustic recorders but in other places we also use camera traps as well. So it's, it's a similar mechanism, you just leave a device behind, attach it to a tree, it will take a photo of any animal that walks by so it's it's not too disruptive. [sound of elephants] And it's a very efficient way of recording wildlife because you can just replicate your effort instead of having one person observing animals, you have 150 different devices in different places surveying the same area at the same time.

Cassidy  28:14
I was just thinking about you had mentioned the Fiji one and the coral reefs do they do like the underwater camera traps or like out underwater like audio traps? As I'm saying it I don't know if that's possible?

Guilherme Ferreira  28:27
Yeah, it's it's almost is like the the recording device is very similar. It has a special case but apart from this you put this underwater it will record sounds at every time interval your tells it to do. So we have loads of recordings, underwater recordings from the coral reef. Image is a bit different because we don't use camera traps, like camera traps, they work automatically - it has passive infrared sensor that when an animal walks by it triggers the camera. There's... I don't think there's anything quite like that for underwater. So what we did in Fiji, in the coral reef, we had divers with video cameras, I think they use two cameras at the same time. So you have... you can use this afterwards to measure fish to get a three dimension idea of the coral as well.

Cassidy  29:20
I would want to be one of the people taking the data for that. That's very cool.

Cassidy  29:34
[sounds of the rain forest]

Cassidy  29:38
In addition to using the audio recordings as data for the project, the team also thought of a creative way of sharing their collected sounds with the public by creating a meditation series. 

Cassidy  29:50
So where did the idea of creating a meditation series come from?

Guilherme Ferreira  29:54
So the Biome Health Project is funded by WWF UK, which is a international conservation organization. And I guess being a conservation project, we want to get people involved in anything that's related to nature. So if we want to have a chance to have a healthy planet in the future, we need people to enjoy, to have a good experience of wild places in wildlife. So apart from the research bit understanding the science behind how biodiversity respond to pressure, it's also important to have this engagement part as well, when the general public develops some kind of attachment, some positive relationship with nature. So I guess it comes from this and also, with the stress and anxiety levels going high with the pandemic, I guess people were looking searching online for meditation and relaxation clips. So why not the one with recordings we have from one of the most diverse forests in the planet.

Cassidy  31:03
And I know like for me, like I listening to it, I-I've done field work before I did some fieldwork in Panama and listening to like the Borneo one, for instance, obviously a very different part of the world, but still, you know, a tropical rainforest kind of area, and having those sounds reminded me so much, but it actually made me emotional listening to it, because it brought me back to that place and what it was like there and you know, because people can't travel and get to those places. I imagine a lot of people that have experienced some of those places with recordings, whether that's the Cornwall one or the Borneo or you know, it gives them a sense of like, like that, that must be so nice. I don't know.

Guilherme Ferreira  31:47
Yeah, and I had a similar experience in Brazil as well, when, before when they start showing my camera trap photos and camera trap videos to people who lived in towns near the National Park, I was working, for example. They were 50 kilometers away from the National Park, but they, for some species, they didn't really know the species was there just in their backyard, basically. So I would show some image, some photos of them and they would say, Oh, I was thinking this was only in the Amazon very far away from me. And then I guess there is a changing mindset when, when someone realize that goes from "Oh, it's out far, far away from me in the Amazon" from being "Oh, it's just in my backyard, it's actually there" it becomes part of the reality and I guess some people will start caring about it.

Guilherme Ferreira  32:43
[extended clip recorded in the rain forest]

Cassidy  32:47
In this month's episode, we looked at how smartphones are changing people's lives around the world, both negatively and positively. Then we looked at how space design matters in public spaces, with or without COVID. And finally, we found out how scientists are keeping track of how tourists and things like the palm oil business affect diversity and national parks, and how it's possible to experience these areas without ever leaving your home.

Cassidy  33:16
[theme music]

Cassidy  33:21
Thank you for listening to #MadeAtUCL the podcast. To listen to previous episodes or find out more about life at UCL visit www.ucl.ac.uk/made-at-UCL, or subscribe wherever you listen to this podcast. 

Cassidy  33:43
This episode was presented by me, Cassidy Martin and produced by Cerys Bradley. 

Cassidy  33:49
It featured music from the Blue Dot Sessions and additional sounds from freesound.org. 

Cassidy  33:55
Special thanks to Daniel, Alan and Gee for sharing their time and expertise. 

Cassidy  34:00
This podcast is brought to you by UCL Minds, bringing together UCL knowledge, insights and expertise through events, digital content and activities that are open to everyone. 

Cassidy  34:11
I hope you enjoyed listening as much as I enjoyed interviewing our guests this month. Thanks again for stopping by. Take care of yourself and stay safe.