Team fights elements to preserve sounds in national parks

Taking the time to listen in our national parks
Posted at 6:54 PM, Apr 26, 2018

In our crazy, fast-paced world, it can be tough to take a breath and slow things down, and that even includes places we go to escape the every day. Researchers are taking the time to listen, to make sure that tranquility is never destroyed.

When we think of our national parks, we think of birds chirping and water running. Not traffic, honking, planes and helicopters.

“It's tough,” Dr. Job said. “It's cold it's rainy sometimes I sit in the middle of thunderstorms hoping for the best sometimes I'm surrounded by animals that are big.”

He’s battling the elements in Yellowstone National Park for a purpose; his purpose is to quiet the national parks.

“It's an issue,” Dr. Job said. “Over the last decade visitation to the national parks has skyrocketed.”

Hundreds of millions of people visit national parks every year, and with people comes noise. Dr. Job manages the Listening Lab, which is part of the Sound and Light Ecology Team at Colorado State University.  The group of students he leads found that noise doubled background sound levels in 63 percent of U.S. parks and protected areas.

That’s why Dr. Job’s team spend days in national parks across the country recording their natural sounds. 

Back at the Listening lab, Elena Gratton is listening through recordings from Yellowstone National Park.

“I'll probably go back to these spots and pull out those sounds,” Gratton said.

One of the highlights? Wolves howling without any cars or people.

She’ll put together the best parts so people who aren’t able to visit a national park can still listen and be transported.

“You can see a picture of this place and that's great but it's on a screen,” Gratton said. “But the moment you put these headphones on you can shut your eyes and you can be there.”

Jared Lamb is listening for a different purpose. He categorizes the sounds he hears and that information goes to the national parks. They then use it to determine how to better manage noise pollution.

“When I first came it was, it didn't really, it didn't really feel like I was doing much,” Lamb said. “It just felt like a lot of numbers. But now after being here for a while I kind of see the implications and how important it is.”

Parks then can do anything from unplugging a generator to limiting helicopter tours. But Dr. Job says it can be even more simple than that.

”Listen,” Dr. Job said. “I always tell people the more you listen the more you'll hear.”

A renewed appreciation for one of nature’s biggest gifts.