Technology Trajectories 

We live in a world where technology is constantly evolving, and there is less consideration of instances where old technology takes the stage. Mary Tripsas, a professor of technology management in the College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara, recently published a paper alongside collaborators that discusses the reemergence of old technologies and how occupations might be a driving factor of these events. Specifically, their research focuses on the music synthesizer and the transitions from analog to digital synthesizers to the recent reemergence of analog.

A music synthesizer is a musical instrument that produces sounds by generating signals. Digital synthesizers rely upon digital signal processing technology while analog synthesizers use real circuits to produce sounds. Jack Antonoff, best known for his work with artists Taylor Swift and Lorde, as well as his contributions to the bands fun. and Bleachers, is one example of a professional musician using analog synthesizers despite living in the age of digital. In this study, Tripsas and her collaborators extracted data from Keyboard magazine by analyzing 476 interviews from 1975-2016. These interviews specifically included synthesizer-related topics. It was found that the reemergence of analog technology was due to musicians’ difficulty finding creative expression while digital synthesizers became universal. Musicians additionally found that the digital synthesizer was not as efficient for control and expertise. Although the rise of old or vintage technologies might commonly be chalked up to retro trends in consumer markets, this research shows that occupational factors are important considerations in technology trends and trajectories. The paper also discussed how occupations might affect technology trends and vice versa, and it emphasized that gaining more insight on this relationship would be relevant to future studies on technology trajectories.

Coral Bleaching 

Reef recovery can be difficult to study due to coral’s extensive life span and long period of recovery. To work around this, UCSB doctoral candidate Kai Kopecky established with a mathematical model for reef dynamics after major events such as bleaching events and storms. Coral bleaching occurs due to conditions such as high temperatures that affect the symbiotic relationship between corals and algae. The colorful algae are expelled under stress and leave the coral bare and exposed. This type of event leaves white coral skeletons on the reef, whereas storms commonly wipe the area clean of coral structures. The island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia has been studied by UCSB researchers for decades, and its coral reef ecosystem has recently experienced a major bleaching event. Past research in this ecosystem has shown that the reef has historically been coral dominated or seaweed dominated. 

Kopecky wanted to develop a method to predict whether the reef was moving toward a seaweed-dominated ecosystem due to the bleaching. In order to quantify reef disturbances, a model was developed using variables such as live and dead coral, exposed and protected algae and empty areas that could potentially be colonized by either coral or algae. Parameters such as growth rate of coral and algae, death and erosion rate of coral and overgrowth rate of algae were also considered in the model. The results of Kopecky’s study showed that events like bleaching can be a hindrance to coral recovery. This is due to coral skeletons’ ability to provide algae with protection from herbivores, which could ultimately allow the ecosystem to become algae dominated. Kopecky and his collaborators have found that these coral skeletons, referred to as material legacies, can affect ecosystem resilience and alter the trajectory of the ecosystem. Future studies might focus on how material legacies of disturbances affect other ecosystems in addition to coral reefs.

Forests and Climate Change 

Many carbon-offset projects are currently underway to protect forests that serve as a carbon sink and reduce atmospheric carbon levels. However, new research has shown that many of these areas are projected to lose carbon within the next century. Anna Trugman, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at UCSB, recently published a study in collaboration with researchers at the University of Utah on how different forests and tree species might be affected by climate change. Many different approaches were used in the study, such as climate projections, data from long-term forests, identification of preferred climate niches by tree species via machine learning and models considering the relationship between ecosystem and atmosphere. The benefit of using a variety of models is to account for factors that other methods might not take into consideration. 

Researchers found that some areas, such as the Great Lakes, were projected to gain carbon, while other areas showed a high risk of losing carbon due to three factors: forest fires, climate stress and insect damage. In addition, the analysis showed that many carbon-offset projects are located in areas with the highest risk of losing carbon due to these factors. The study highlighted the urgency of implementing these findings in order to protect and maintain forests that will be better able to gain carbon in the face of climate risks. However, there are still many unanswered questions that need to be addressed, including how resilient biomes are from disturbances and the complexity of how forests are affected by risk factors. Gaining a better understanding of these unknowns will give researchers a better idea of how conservation projects should be conducted to most effectively reduce atmospheric carbon levels.