Jacob Job lands grant from the National Geographic Society to study songbirds, humans

Jacob Job looks at his recording equipment while out in the field

“We want to show people beautiful places and sounds and to show people how conservation helps, right in your backyard,” Job explained. “But we also want to show people that the struggles these species are facing aren’t unique.” Photo: William A. Cotton/CSU Photography

Jacob Job spends a lot of time each year in the great outdoors, recording the sounds of national parks and other natural areas through his role as a research associate in the Listening Lab at Colorado State University.

He records the sounds of all kinds of creatures, including birds, wolves, deer, moose and elk, to help preserve and better understand natural soundscapes. His recordings also help acquaint people from around the globe with these sounds, even if they aren’t able to travel to these places.

In April, Job will embark on a new adventure to track migratory songbirds, thanks to a grant from the National Geographic Society and support from the Warner College of Natural Resources and other groups on campus.

He will start at the gulf coast of Louisiana and spend two months working his way north to the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. Tyler McClure, a professional photographer and wildlife biologist, and Jacqueline Van Meter, field producer for National Public Radio’s StoryCorps, will help document what they see and hear.

Follow along through six ecosystems

The project isn’t just for the birds. In each of the six ecosystems Job will visit, the team will also interview people who share the land with these birds, including farmers, loggers, fishermen and others who live off the land. The team will record in both protected and unprotected lands, to explore the effects of conservation efforts.

And you can follow their progress and findings.

yellow Prothonotary Warbler on a small tree branch
The team will study the prothonotary warbler, shown here perched on a tree branch. Photo: William H. Majoros

In summer 2019, the team will unveil an eight-part podcast series and story map. They will also retrace their footsteps this fall by hosting talks in the same communities.

Job said the general aim of the project is to reintroduce people to the natural world, while also revealing how animals and people are suffering due to climate change and other human activities.

“We want to show people beautiful places and sounds and to show people how conservation helps, right in your backyard,” Job explained. “But we also want to show people that the struggles these species are facing aren’t unique. People are also stressed due to what’s happening in the environment.”


Job was inspired to pursue this research after reading Listening to a Continent Sing, by birdsong expert Donald Kroodsma and North on the Wing: Travels with the Songbird Migration of Spring, by ornithologist Bruce Beehler.

Job also read about the disappearing coastline in Louisiana, where a landmass equal to the size of the island of Manhattan sinks into the Gulf of Mexico every year due to rising sea level and the reduced capacity of the Mississippi River to flood and replenish soil on the delta. Oil and gas development is also wreaking havoc, he said.

Birds that live and breed there are losing their habitat as a result, while the fishing and shrimping industries are also losing some of their most productive areas.

Job has lofty goals for the project that go beyond conservation efforts and raising awareness about climate change.

“I hope that what we uncover can help heal the divide in people,” he said. “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.”

Connect with the research

Listen to the lab’s work in national parks and other recordings, including waves crashing on the jetty in Oregon and bird songs and waves lapping the lakeshore in the Boundary Waters through Soundcloud.

Follow the team’s travels on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: @flywayvoices; look also for the hashtag #natureconnects. Job’s website will include updates from the road.

Funding for this research project is supported by the National Geographic Society and CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology; Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President; Office of the Vice President for Research, and the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.