Sound lessons

By: Olivia Paladino

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People by train tracks

Making an impact starts with a single idea, an initial spark that transforms an individual’s goal into a collective effort, through which amazing change can be made. When working to make an impact in an environmental setting – especially in remote areas – a strong network is essential. It can serve as the pathway among hardworking individuals who need to communicate with one another to reach their like-minded goal.

This past summer, a group of environmental researchers teamed up to study the role of sound in Denali National Park and Preserve. Spearheading the work is Dr. Peter Newman, the Department Head of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management at Penn State. His passion for his team and the work he does is extraordinary. He says the most fulfilling aspect of his work is seeing his students grow and giving them hands-on projects. “Assignments like this allow students to apply their real-world experience to wherever their careers take them and develop the necessary skills to become our future leaders in science,” says Peter. He encourages his students to think big and helps them continue to improve their problem solving abilities. “In problem solving, you can’t just look to your own discipline. Answers are found when crossing the disciplines,” says Peter.

In problem solving, you can’t just look to your own discipline. Answers are found when crossing the disciplines.

Dr. Peter Newman

Peter is joined by Lauren Abbott and Heather Costigan, two of his aspiring students. Lauren is a Ph.D. candidate and conducting her third summer of study in national parks. She enjoys taking what she learns in the classroom and applying it to real field research. “Doing this work makes me feel really inspired and excited about what I’m learning in graduate school,” says Lauren. 

Heather, a second year master's student, describes her fieldwork as an amazing opportunity to explore how visitors perceive the sounds they hear while visiting the park. “Sounds are a powerful resource that deserve to be protected and researched in hopes of preservation for future generations,” says Heather. Her future aspirations will encompass her research focus of naturalistic (such as sound) impacts on human health dimensions.

Sounds are a powerful resource that deserve to be protected and researched in hopes of preservation for future generations.

Heather Costigan

Lauren and Heather

Lauren and Heather are role models for all young women aspiring to follow their passion and pursue a career in STEM. Denali is a scientist’s playground — comprised of six million acres of wilderness accessed by a single road. These students need to be prepared for anything from tourists’ questions to encounters with wildlife. 

Lauren and Heather

Lauren and Heather bravely learning how to use bear spray before heading out for their field work in “bear country.”

Dr. Rose Keller is one of only three social scientists employed by the National Park Service. She values the collaboration between National Park Service, the universities, and their researchers and graduate students in order to make good decisions, stay connected and stay relevant. “Science doesn’t paint the world in black and white,” says Rose.

Science doesn’t paint the world in black and white.

Dr. Rose Keller

A long and exciting journey is ahead for these students, and many just like them. #weneedmore kids to see the world of possibilities waiting for them.  

You can listen to the natural sounds below that this team works to preserve for millions of people to enjoy.

About the author(s):

Olivia Paladino is a member of Verizon’s external communications team where she pours her energy into creating engaging content. But when Olivia's not cooking up a story, she’s whipping up something tasty to eat. Olivia loves making delicious dishes for her big, Italian family — as seen on her Instagram.

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Watch video Science, sound and the future at Denali National Park and Preserve
A network of environmental researchers and social scientists study the role of sound in the 6M acre Denali National Park.