Sounds in Silence: Glacier National Park

Sounds in Silence: Glacier National Park

My legs grazed through the dewy grass as I walked along the road. Although wearing closed-toed boots, I could almost feel the cool droplets touch my feet as sharply as the misty air on my face. One side of the road had shrubs leading to a dense forest of trees, while the other side was lined with houses that matched the green colors of the woods. Beyond the forest, mountains towered above and a rare silence engulfed the landscape. I have lived in a rural area, but this new type of quiet brought me deep serenity. At first, the only sound I could hear was my shoes hitting the ground, but as I continued to walk in silence, the leaves moving in the breeze, buzzing insects in the grass, and occasional chatter of birds in the trees became clear. I was almost skipping about the neighborhood from my excitement to start my first day of work at Glacier National Park. 

My official title is Natural Resource Management Assistant, but another title used to describe my job is Soundscape Intern. For my position, I will be backpacking to set up audio recording equipment at sites around the park to monitor the soundscape. The natural soundscape includes sounds such as songbird calls, rushing river water, and elk bugling. I will be looking at how the natural soundscape is affected by humans through the sounds of vehicles, aircraft, people hiking, and more. Preserving the natural soundscape is important to preserve wilderness character and for wildlife to find food sources and navigate the landscape. On my first day of work, I was reading about the importance of preserving a natural soundscape in a park guidebook, which had the ability of a predator to listen for its prey as an example of the importance of the natural soundscape. A predator that can hear sounds within a radius of 9 m2 in a natural soundscape would only be able to hear sounds within a radius of 7 m2 if 1 decibel of sounds were added to the natural soundscape. Since the natural soundscape can be polluted by noise, which can affect wildlife, it is important to study. My project, which is a continuation of a soundscape project in Glacier from 2004, can provide more information about the natural soundscape.

I became interested in working in the environmental field in high school after a week-long trip to Yellowstone National Park during the winter, where I learned about how tracking elk populations can inform park management decisions. I recently graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, where I grew my love for learning about the natural world. In high school, working at a National Park was just a dream of mine, and now having the opportunity to fulfill that dream at Glacier is incredible. I look forward to writing my next update about my journey working at Glacier and learning about soundscapes.

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