For Jacob Job, the sounds of nature are as important as what you can see and feel in the outdoors.
The research associate for Colorado State University has dedicated his career to documenting and sharing those sounds, including work in Rocky Mountain National Park.
His latest project, which kicks off this week with a grant from the National Geographic Society, is to tie together the sounds of songbirds within their natural habitats with the stories of people who live within those areas.
After all, Job said, the two are intertwined and affect each others' lives in many ways.
"These personal stories parallel the stories that the birds could tell if they could talk to us," said Job, who will set out on his trip Wednesday. "It's not just a bird thing, a wildlife thing, it's an all of us thing."
Job, who works as a research associate in the Listening Lab at Colorado State University, will kick off his new project at the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and work his way north to the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota with wildlife biologist and photographer Tyler McClure and Jacqueline Van Meter, field producer with National Public Radio, according to information from CSU.
During their two months crossing six different ecosystems, the team will share their recordings and experiences along the way via the website voicesofaflyway.com and various social media platforms.
The final product will be released through an eight-part podcast and story map in the fall and, starting in September, shared through community meetings within the swath of the United States that the team visited.
Grants totaling $46,472 will pay for the project, including $29,972 from the National Geographic Society and various amounts from CSU Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Warner College, Office of the Vice President for Research and School of Global Environmental Sustainability.
The team will document what they see in the wild, focusing on songbirds as well as the stories of the people who also share the land, including anglers, farmers and even loggers.
They will learn about how the changing land affects both nature and human life.
Through the blending of photos, nature sounds and personal stories, they aim to share a much larger picture of people and their relationship to nature and of how people's actions affect nature. Migratory birds make a monumental trip every year — a journey made more difficult by shrinking habitat, air pollution, climate change and other results of human behavior, Job said.
His goal is to not only record the sounds and stories to help people want to experience and enjoy the beauty of nature but also to entice them to want to protect the resources.
"I hope that what we uncover can help heal the divide in people," Job said in a blog released by CSU. "We're more divided than ever, but the vast majority of us want the same things: healthy places to raise our children, clean air and clean water. That's the narrative of this story that I'm weaving."