Students monitor sound in Denali National Park
Away from the Denali Park Road and the hoards of tourists you won’t hear anything but the sound of Mother Nature — and students listening to what she has to say.
“We’re taking measurements on the distance between how far sound goes before it starts to dissipate,” explained Anderson School student Logan Wright.
The group of Denali Borough students is one of seven throughout the park working in an intensive learning program. They’re tasked with monitoring sound and looking at how it travels across the land.
“We also learned how to use high-technology sound reading equipment and machinery and that kind of stuff and it’s really interesting,” said Tri-Valley student Allison Przybylski.
The park is 6 million acres of wilderness and backcountry. While there’s noise from cars and buses along the road, the instructor said nature is also pretty noisy if you listen.
“The stream where we are, it’s loud and you might not be able to hear the road, but if we got on one [of] the nearby mountains it could be the case where we could hear because we’re farther away and there’s less energy,” said soundscape technician Davyd Betchkal.
He’s been monitoring Denali for the past five years. Because the area is increasingly impacted by human-generated noises — park buses, camera shutters, curious tourists — the Sound Monitoring Program’s goal is to preserve and restore the natural sounds within the park.
Betchkal said it’s great to see students take an interest in his passion.
“I feel especially strong about places in Alaska because I understand where there are very few places left in the world where solitude can still be found in such an intact way,” said said. “So to impart those ideas on to other people and to study it is important to me.”
For teachers, it’s a chance to show their kids there’s a practical use for what they learn at school.
“Take the classroom out doors,” said Uwe Hoffman, the math and science teacher at Anderson School. “You live in Alaska, you should have all those opportunities. You should be an expert when you leave high school about your own backyard.”
Students said the intensive learning program has shown them a side of the park they would never have seen otherwise.
“We get to see what they do here at the park. Really I thought what they did at the park is just protect animals. I didn’t know they tested a bunch of stuff up here,” Wright said.
“It’s really good for students like us to learn how to use this kind of stuff because in the future generations we don’t know when or how we might need information and how to use it. I think it’s really important,” Przybyliski added.
It’s a chance for students to get off the beaten path, both in the park and their quest for knowledge.