While many can appreciate the beautiful views of nature, the Sound and Light Ecology Team at Colorado State University is working to help people appreciate the sounds of nature.
“Humans are such visual creatures, that sometimes people don’t pay attention to the sounds all around them,” according to Jacob Job, research associate with the Natural Sounds and Night Division of the National Park Service. He hopes that what his team does can help to bring to light how important keeping the natural sounds in our world is.
“I’m sure you’ve gone to national parks, and subconsciously you like all of those sounds,” Job said. “You go to the beach, and part of that experience is hearing the waves crashing on the shore. You go to the mountains and part of the experience is the wind through the pines, the birds singing.”
Job said he is interested in how organisms communicate and deal with their environments, and how their interactions are affected by noises produced by humans.
Job received his PhD from Western Michigan University in evolutionary biology, and said that he considers himself an “acoustic ecologist.” Job has been working as part of the research team since April of 2015, and the team formed in 2007 as a collaboration between CSU and the NPS to study and work with how noise and light pollution affect the ecology in the parks.
“We’re basically tasked with protecting wilderness in two ways,” Job said. “The first way is keeping wilderness quiet, and sort of preserving those natural sounds of other organisms and limiting the effect of humans. We also work to keep skies dark at night.”
Job said that the Park Service will contact the team regarding a concern in one of the parks, and so the team will send people all around the country to investigate the source of the issue and to capture recordings of the sounds of the parks. Once the sounds have been captured, back at the lab at CSU undergraduate students are tasked with categorizing all of the sounds in the recording, using number codes to “build a picture of how the park sounds.” The team can then used this picture to determine what steps need to be taken in order to keep the sounds of the park as natural as possible.
Job said that he wants to encourage more students to get involved with the team, and said that there are always opportunities for undergrads to start doing what he does. He cited some time he spent in Hawaii for a National Geographic event as one of his favorite experiences with the team.
“I had three straight mornings of getting up at 3 am and hiking into the rainforest,” Job said. “I was setting up microphones to capture what the rainforest sounds like when it’s waking up, so that was kinda cool.”
Collegian Social Managing Editor Chapman W. Croskell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Nescwick.