Tech Tools for National Parks

ChrisGarsha Noisesign 1

NPS physical scientist Damon Joyce (left) and bio-acoustical engineer Christopher Garsha (right) of the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division create a range of innovative instruments for use in national park units. Via

To enter the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division‘s technical laboratory is to step through the tinkerer’s portal to a shop extraordinaire—where assorted circuitry parts, copper wires, nuts and bolts, and power tools lay sprawled across the table in a colorful maze of mysterious purpose. Part tech shop, equipment cage, and staging ground for field trips, the lab is busy with projects in every corner. Specialized tools include a 3D printer, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machining, and two electronic rework stations.

Bio-acoustical engineer Christopher Garsha is wearing goggles and soldering electronic components. He is putting the finishing touches on an electronic sound meter sign. When installed in national parks, the sign will display the noise levels of oncoming traffic. The idea is that with instant, visual feedback about their vehicles’ output of noise, drivers will slow down. This, in turn, will lower their volume.

With the final part in place, Christopher lifts the 4.5 ft. tall sign to its upright position, walks across the room, and whistles at full volume. Red numbers compliantly flash in response.

“It works!” Christopher beams. Lab mate and physical scientist Damon Joyce nods approval and says that whistling is an easy, low tech way to test the sound responsive equipment.

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