For this waystation, I recorded the sounds of a roadside electric meter with a pair of electromagnetic sensors (Elektrouši by LOM). The sensors pick up wavelengths up to 90 kHz and translate them to the range of human hearing.
These electromagnetic waves pervade the air and trace the migratory corridors of the monarch, as much of the Pacific Northwest’s power travels to California consumers. They are wavelengths that are hidden to human senses — but to a monarch’s magnetoreceptive antennae, they are pure noise. In a 2016 article, neurobiologist Steven Reppert speculates that this noise may hamper the orientation of the migrating monarch:
“Just as human-induced electromagnetic noise appears to hamper the orientation of other species that possess a magnetic compass sense, such sensory interference may negatively affect the magnetic sense of monarchs during migration. This information may further conservation efforts with respect to continued human urban planning and technology use on large spatial scales.” (Reppert et al., 2016 p. 39)
I wake up this morning to frantic texts from my roommate, Golnoosh. Sweet Calpurnia passed away in her sleep over the night. I had a plan to take the train home that night to be with her, but I’m so glad she went on her own terms. Our neighbor, Daniel, buries her. Golnoosh sends me photos along the way. She makes a little shrine, and the orange cat who lives next door spends the whole day with her. We bike to Eugene in the rain. Calpurnia loved to go out in the rain.
We stop at an intersection with a stop sign and a big electrical unit, that doesn’t look like it gets mowed a lot. I lean my bike against the sign and see a little film cannister that reads “GEOCACHE.” A friend used to take us geocaching in high school, so I know exactly what to do. We add our names to the list of finders, and pour some seeds in the cannister, with instructions to plant them and post the coordinates on MWS. The geography nerds that geocache might be into something like that.
We get to Eugene with plenty of time to spare, and hang out with my friend Lauren from Peace Corps – I haven’t seen her since the pandemic, so we have a great time catching up and chatting about the project. We may have a future collaborator!