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00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770520000The Allegheny Front is a radio program covering environmental issues in Western Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Front began in 1991 and continues to serve the community as the most insightful source of local and regional environmental news and information on the radio. The program explores environmental issues affecting the community through stories, interviews, news, and commentaries.

In A Noisy World, Our Brains Still Need The Sounds Of Nature

Kerry Klein
Allegheny Front

Kurt Fristrup is standing in the middle of a prairie and he’s the loudest thing for miles. He and I are huddled near an empty cattle pen in Pawnee National Grassland in northern Colorado. Before he pulled out his tools, the silence here was palpable. The breeze carried no sound except the rustle of a million stalks of yellow grass. A family of pronghorn, kind of like furry antelope, padded over to us to investigate.

Fristrup is disrupting this serene soundscape for a reason: He wants to better understand it—by recording it. Cows chewed through a microphone he set up a few months ago. And now he’s here to install a new one.

“My respect for those cattle has just gone up,” he says. “They gnawed through some of these things, and they’re pretty tough.”

Fristrup is a senior scientist with the National Park Service in Fort Collins, Colorado. And he’s tasked with protecting a natural resource. It’s not water or minerals or endangered species. It’s sound. Natural sound. His team is studying how man-made noise is drowning out the sounds of birds and insects and rain. And as more and more research links our well-being to what we hear, Fristrup and his colleagues are pointing to natural sound as something to be managed—and even protected.

“I’d like to think that we can reach out through this effort, not just to park visitors and not just to backpackers, but help everyone realize that their lives could be better and their communities could be more vibrant places if we take some time to make them quieter.”

Read more of this report on the site of our partner, Allegheny Front