DJs, drones and the sounds of data featured at 2016 Polar Day on March 22

March 15, 2016

The weather may be warming with spring on the horizon, but ice will be center stage at Penn State’s annual Polar Day on March 22, 2016 on the University Park campus. The annual event features performances, lectures and other events celebrating the natural and cultural value of the world’s polar regions. Polar Day 2016 events will include a multimedia performance by DJ Spooky, demonstrations of remotely operated vehicles and drones, and talks on data sonification, wildlife photography and untold stories of a North Pole expedition quest. Polar Day is sponsored by Penn State’s Polar Center. All events are free and open to the public.

Paul Miller, also known as DJ Spooky, will keynote the day’s events with a multimedia performance, co-sponsored by the Center for the Performing Arts, “Of Water and Ice,” at noon in the HUB-Robeson Center’s Freeman Auditorium. A musician, composer and author who was named an Emerging Explorer by National Geographic, DJ Spooky is a sonic artist who hears music in almost everything—from visual forms and economic theory to the great outdoors. He juxtaposes images with live and recorded hip-hop, electronic and minimalist music to create a unique experience.

After traveling to Antarctica to shoot a film and create an acoustic portrait of the rapidly changing continent, DJ Spooky published “The Book of Ice” and a music album, “Of Water and Ice.” DJ Spooky has previously collaborated with Metallica, Chuck D, Steve Reich, Yoko Ono and other musicians. His work has appeared in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Venice Biennial for Architecture, Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum and other museums and galleries worldwide.

At 1:10 p.m. in the Freeman Auditorium, Suzi Eszterhas, an award-winning wildlife photographer based in California, will discuss her works. Best known for her work documenting family life on the African savanna, Eszterhas has undertaken commissions and led instructional photography tours and workshops everywhere from Antarctica to the Arctic and Alaska to Montana. Her photographs have been published in books, magazines and newspapers all over the world. From 2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Eszterhas will sign books from her “Eye on the Wild” series of children's books, which follow the lives of baby animals from birth to adulthood as they grow up in the wild.

At 2:35 p.m. in the Freeman Auditorium, Dr. Mark Ballora, associate professor of music at Penn State, will showcase data sonification, or the transformation of data into sound. Ballora’s presentation will focus on the music of migration and phenology and will include muskox and caribou migration, and cycles of plant growth.

The day’s events will conclude at 3:05 p.m. in Freeman Auditorium with a presentation by Susan Kaplan, professor of anthropology at Bowdoin College and director of Bowdoin College’s Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center. Kaplan will discuss untold stories of Robert Peary’s North Pole expedition quest. Peary is believed to be one of the first explorers to reach the North Pole.

The day’s activities also include two demonstrations, available by appointment only. Buzz Scott, president and founder of OceansWide, will let visitors try out an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in the McCoy Natatorium. In the Forest Resource Building, Doug Miller, professor of geography, will show off drones that are used to capture imagery of the North and South poles. Due to overwhelming early demand, tickets for both the remotely operated vehicle and drone demonstrations are no longer available.

About the Polar Center:

The Polar Center provides a platform for Penn State's world-renowned faculty in life, physical and social sciences to communicate to the broader public the unique beauty and increasingly urgent scientific and cultural value of the Arctic and Antarctic. The Polar Center is a partnership between the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, the Eberly College of Science, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

For more information contact Pernille Sporon Boving, director for programing and engagement, Polar Center, at or visit the Polar Day website. 

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Last Updated March 15, 2016