Acoustic Atlas features in Ivan Doig symposium

Hear stories and sounds of weather, water, wildlife, and work in the landscapes of author Ivan Doig. Join Acoustic Atlas team members for their session at Doig Country: Imagining Montana and the West, a free symposium at Montana State University on the life and works of the acclaimed Western author.

Session: The Wind from Eden: Soundscapes of Ivan Doig
When: 3:45-5:00pm, Friday, September 15
Where: Innovative Learning Studio, Montana State University Library, Bozeman, MT

Learn how the intersection of the Ivan Doig archive and the Acoustic Atlas at Montana State University Library inspired our effort to capture auditor vignettes of Doig’s landscapes along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and Shields River Valley as well as parts of Northwestern Washington.  The session will discuss how these recordings contribute to the Acoustic Atlas, the Ivan Doig collection, and MSU Library programs, partnerships, and outreach.


We hope to see you there!

Presented by Acoustic Atlas Program Director Jeff Rice and Program Manager Molly Arrandale.

Writing Sound: Howling for Leopold Week

Late last Friday, I discovered that the first week in March celebrates Aldo Leopold, the American author, environmentalist, and philosopher. I sat down to explore how the famed conservationist wrote about sound. Yet I found my fingers balking at the keys. My memory circles the personal impact of a man who’s words on wildlife and wildness thread through my own life. Recalling his significance to me, self-doubt persuades that I cannot possibly do justice to one of America’s most renowned ecologists and nature writers.

Then, after a little digging and reflection, I am reminded that Leopold’s land ethic is born of humility. Leopold wrote of the need to humble ourselves before natural systems of complexity and nuance and grace beyond comprehension. It seems fitting to quiet my mind and offer a small homage to an author who put words to our obligations to the majesty that is life on earth.Photo Credit: Jim Peaco/NPS

There is a passage from A Sand County Almanac that fit into my heart from first read and reverberates whenever I have occasion to contemplate the wild. As a young man in the Forest Service in the Southwest, Leopold shot into a pack of wolves:

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.

Leopold’s fierce green fire is a moment of regret and redemption, vulnerability and compassion, kinship and divergence. Throughout his Thinking Like a Mountain essay, the wolf appears as a guide in the evolution of Leopold’s thinking on top predators and ecological systems. And Leopold wrote of listening to Canis lupus as much as observing them visually:

A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night.

Audio credit: “Grey Wolves, 8-Mile Pack” NPS/Jennifer Jerrett, hosted by Acoustic Atlas.

Leopold’s descriptions of wolf howls are rooted in the relational; he writes of the auditory experience empathically:

It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world.

And in solidarity with the community of life:

Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet.

And with humility in recognition of the smallness of our stature:

Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.

I said that Leopold threads through my life: as a southwestern child amidst the Bring Back the Lobo campaign; as an undergraduate student studying natural resource policy and state wolf management in particular; and as an adult who didn’t so much move to Montana as immigrate to wolf country. Wolves or their absence have always been with me. Perhaps Aldo Leopold’s words resonate with me simply due to exposure – his works experienced a resurgence that neatly overlaps my lifespan. I am sure that I owe my love and curiosity for wolves in no small part to Aldo Leopold. Yet I think he would maintain that he simply put words to a universal connection:

Those unable to decipher the hidden meaning know nevertheless that it is there, for it is felt in all wolf country and distinguishes that country from all other land. It tingles in the spine of all who hear wolves by night, or who scan their tracks by day. Even without sight or sound of wolf, it is implicit in in a hundred small events: the midnight whinny of a pack horse, the rattle of rolling rocks, the bound of a fleeing deer, the way shadows lie under the spruces. Only the ineducable tyro can fail to sense the presence or absence of wolves, or the fact that mountains have a secret opinion about them.

In Song of the Gavilan, another essay in A Sand County Almanac, Leopold answers what might be the most important question of all: how do we hear secrets whispered between wolves and mountains? The answer, of course, is to still ourselves and listen:

To hear even a few notes of it you must first live here for a long time, and you must know the speech of hills and rivers. Then on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleiades have climbed over rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl, and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it – a vast pulsing harmony – its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries.

It is a tall order to live in Leopold’s landscapes: to immerse ourselves in simple living in an untrammeled place. But we can still look up to the Pleiades:

"Meteor at the Pleiades" by Luis Argerich used in accordance with CC BY-NC 2.0.

And listen to the howl of a wolf:

Audio credit: “Wolf howling, Lamar Valley” NPS/Jennifer Jerrett, hosted by Acoustic Atlas.

And think hard of everything we have seen and tried to understand.

You can listen to more wolf howls via the Acoustic Atlas. You can hear an inspiring vignette about wolves breaking the silence in Yellowstone National Park in Winter Wolves, an audio postcard produced by Yellowstone National Park.

Grey Wolves, 8-Mile Pack” and “Wolves howling, Lamar Valley” public domain audio recorded by NPS/Jennifer Jerrett, hosted by the Acoustic Atlas. “Meteor at the Pleiades” photo credit Luis Argerich used in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License 2.0. “Alpha male (712) of the Canyon pack in the Lower Geyser Basin” photo credit Jim Peaco/NPS.

Writing Sound: Listening to Muir on Yellowstone’s Birthday

Postcard of Old Faithful Geyser; Frank J Haynes; No date
Postcard of Old Faithful Geyser; Frank J Haynes

On the 144th anniversary of the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, I happened upon John Muir’s 1898 entry in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Yellowstone National Park.” Always on the lookout for descriptions of sound, I found a treasure of references to the auditory experience of our first national park.

Muir’s words are as a sermon, inviting a flock of travelers both in body and in imagination to lie down in the “stimulating, quickening pasturage” of the “blessed old Yellowstone Wonderland.” And as voice is inseparable from the idea of a preacher, so too does Muir evoke the awesome voice of a tumultuous and vibrant landscape:

A thousand Yellowstone wonders are calling, “Look up and down and round about you!” And a multitude of still, small voices may be heard directing you to look through all this transient, shifting show of things called “substantial” into the truly substantial, spiritual world whose forms flesh and wood, rock and water, air and sunshine, only veil and conceal, and to learn that here is heaven and the dwelling-place of the angels.

To me, what is striking in this passage is the use of comparative volume to encompass all that Yellowstone invites us to contemplate. The thousands of exclamatory calls bring to mind the breathtaking and frankly terrifying geology of the park. Indeed, Muir’s descriptions of Yellowstone’s geothermal wonders seem to emphasize their awesomeness:

However orderly your excursions or aimless, again and again amid the calmest, stillest scenery you will be brought to a standstill hushed and awe-stricken before phenomena wholly new to you. Boiling springs and huge deep pools of purest green and azure water, thousands of them, are splashing and heaving in these high, cool mountains as if a fierce furnace fire were burning beneath each one of them; and a hundred geysers, white torrents of boiling water and steam, like inverted waterfalls, are ever and anon rushing up out of the hot, black underworld. Some of these ponderous geyser columns are as large as sequoias,—five to sixty feel in diameter, one hundred and fifty to three hundred feet high,—and are sustained at this great height with tremendous energy for a few minutes, or perhaps nearly an hour, standing rigid and erect, hissing, throbbing, booming, as if thunderstorms were raging beneath their roots, their sides roughened or fluted like the furrowed boles of trees, their tops dissolving in feathery branches, while the irised spray, like misty bloom is at times blown aside, revealing the massive shafts shining against a background of pine-covered hills.

Let’s listen Beehive Geyser as it builds to that “hissing, throbbing, booming, as if thunderstorms were raging beneath [its] roots


In another passage, Muir imagines Yellowstone’s cauldrons and mudpots as science experiments in a vast natural laboratory, with “Nature at work as a chemist…cunningly compounding an infinite variety of mineral messes.” Listen, for example, to the “gasping, belching, thudding sounds” of a boiling mud pot, as in this recording of Fountain Paint Pots:


Muir reminds us that the deafening noise of Yellowstone’s wonders serve to quiet us:

there is a chatter of small talk in anything but solemn mood; and during the intervals between the preliminary splashes and upheavals some adventurer occasionally looks down the throat of the crater, admiring the silex formations and wondering whether Hades is as beautiful. But when, with awful uproar as if avalanches were falling and storms thundering in the depths, the tremendous outburst begins, all run away to a safe distance, and look on, awe-stricken and silent, in devout, worshiping wonder.

He employs sound to write the mood of a place that requires “stout faith to feel at ease“:

The ground sounds hollow underfoot, and the awful subterranean thunder shakes one’s mind as the ground is shaken, especially at night in the pale moonlight, or when the sky is overcast with storm-clouds. In the solemn gloom, the geysers, dimly visible, look like monstrous dancing ghosts, and their wild songs and the earthquake thunder replying to the storms overhead seem doubly terrible, as if divine government were at an end.


I have marveled at my being in the world amidst growling thunder. I have thanked a  howling wind that my ego could not stand to face. The ferocity of nature is so often marked by sound: a roaring, rushing, thundering, crashing, thudding, rumbling beat of a wild heart. It’s enough to give one’s own heart pause – and then to resume, realigned to the faith of the world:

But the trembling hills keep their places. The sky clears, the rosy dawn is reassuring, and up comes the sun like a god, pouring his faithful beams across the mountains and forest, lighting each peak and tree and ghastly geyser alike, and shining into the eyes of the reeking springs, clothing them with rainbow light, and dissolving the seeming chaos of darkness into varied forms of harmony. The ordinary work of the world goes on. Gladly we see the flies dancing in the sun-beams, birds feeding their young, squirrels gathering nuts, and hear the blessed ouzel singing confidingly in the shallows of the river,—most faithful evangel, calming every fear, reducing everything to love.



You can take an audio tour of the “blessed old Yellowstone Wonderland” via the Acoustic Atlas Yellowstone National Park Collection and Yellowstone National Park’s Sound Library.

Beehive Geyser, compilation” recorded by Peter Comely and “Mud pots, Fountain Paint Pots” recorded by Jennifer Jerrett are public domain audio files. “Rain and thunder, Grand Teton National Park” audio file courtesy of the National Park Service. “American Dipper song” audio files copyright 2014, Kevin Colver, all rights reserved.

Photo credit: “Postcard of Crested Pool & Castle Geyser” and “Postcard of Old Faithful Geyser” by Frank J. Haynes / NPS.

Writing Sound: Darwin and the love of birds

Outer tail-feather of Scolopax gallinago, illustration in Darwin's The Descent of Man, By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons.
Outer tail-feather of Scolopax gallinago, illustration in Darwin’s The Descent of Man, By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons.
Seeking a quote to share for International Darwin Day, I soon found connection with another celebration just around the corner: Valentine’s Day. It turns out that when Charles Darwin wrote about bird sound and song, he also wrote of love and connection:

We can concentrate…greater intensity of feeling in a single musical note than in pages of writing. Nearly the same emotions, but much weaker and less complex, are probably felt by birds when the male pours forth his full volume of song…Love is still the commonest theme of our own songs.

When we think birds and love, it’s easy to focus on the vocalIndeed, Darwin has a great deal to say about bird songs and sexual selection. But he also wrote about the instrumental sounds that birds make in pursuit of mates:

The diversity of the sounds, both vocal and instrumental, made by the males of many species during the breeding-season, and the diversity of the means for producing such sounds, are highly remarkable…It is not difficult to imagine the steps by which the notes of a bird, primarily used as a mere call or for some other purpose, might have been improved into a melodious love-song. This is somewhat more difficult in the case of the modified feathers, by which the drumming, whistling, or roaring noises are produced. But we have seen that some birds during their courtship flutter, shake, or rattle their unmodified feathers together; and if the females were led to select the best performers, the males which possessed the strongest or thickest, or most attenuated feathers…would be the most successful; and thus by slow degrees the feathers might be modified to almost any extent…

Let’s take a listen to a couple of examples of instrumental bird sounds. Darwin quoted descriptions of the Ruffed Grouse’s mating displays:

Another North American grouse, the Tetrao umbellus, when with his tail erect, his ruffs displayed, “he shows off his itnery to the females, who lie hid in the neighbourhood,” drums rapidly with his “lowered wings on the trunk of a fallen tree,” or, according to Audubon, against his own body; the sound thus produced is compared by some to distant thunder, and by others to the quick roll of a drum.

John James Audubon's Ruffed Grouse. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
John James Audubon’s Ruffed Grouse. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

He goes on to describe the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago):

The drumming, or bleating, or neighing, or thundering noise, as expressed by different observers, which is made by the common snipe (Scolopax gallinago) must have surprised every one who has ever heard it.

Once considered the same species as Europe’s Common Snipe, the North American Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) makes a similar sound, as heard in this Audio Postcard from Yellowstone National Park:

Wilson's Snipe by Mdf used in accordance with CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons.
Wilson’s Snipe by Mdf used in accordance with CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons.

In the Audio Postcard, we hear from Katy Duffy, Interpretive Planner for Yellowstone National Park and a self-confessed “addicted birder.” Her description of the Wilson’s Snipe’s siren “song”:

What male Wilson’s snipe do this time of the year — in the Spring — they do this flight — these winnowing flights is what they’re called — So each time they flap their wings it pushes air through the stiff outer tail feathers and it makes that “woo woo woo woo woo” kind of sound…It’s a metallic sound. It’s goin’ on over your head so it’s really hard to pinpoint where the bird is. It’s eerie. It’s strange because it’s often happening at dusk or at night, so it’s coming out of the darkness. That’s what’s fascinating is that it happens at a time that’s sort of magical. I always think of dusk as magical because almost anything can happen. Your imagination kind of goes wild and when you hear sounds out of this, oh, semi-darkness, they seem ethereal…otherworldly…wild…and they are! And it’s neat. We use other senses. I love when we use more than just our eyes.

What a world that we live in, where two distinct celebrations – Darwin’s Day and Valentine’s Day – provide through their coincidence an opportunity to reflect on connection, love, and our sensory experience of the world. It does my heart good to read – and hear – sounds that were as inspiring to a naturalist who changed the world more than a century ago as they are to today’s scientists, birders, and lovers of the wild.

The Acoustic Atlas is curated by the Montana State University Library and includes more than 2500 recordings of species and environments from throughout the Western United States. Our collection emphasizes the strong connection between natural sounds and regional ecosystems, and features a growing number of recordings from Montana and the Yellowstone corridor. Sounds are provided with the help of volunteers, researchers, and through collaborations with agencies like the National Park Service.

Source for Darwin quotes: The Descent of Man: And Selection in Relation to Sex, Volume 2 by Charles Darwin

Ruffed Grouse” audio copyright Kevin Colver, 2014, all rights reserved. “Snipe Hunt” Audio Postcard, produced by Yellowstone National Park, public domain.

Writing sound: Theodore Roosevelt composed American wildness

Sandhill cranes in flight.

The ongoing occupation of Malheur National Wildlife refuge invites us to read – and listen to – some of what inspired the creation of America’s wildlife refuge system. Theodore Roosevelt composed American wildness, both in his naturalist writings and in ordering the protection of the landscapes that he so loved.

“If the desert is holy,” writes conservationist author Terry Tempest Williams, “it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred.” The armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge by a group of anti-government protesters this week invites us to remember a forgotten place in Oregon’s high desert and to reflect on what is sacrosanct in the American experience.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is not a blank place on the map to me; as an undergraduate student, I scraped paint on outbuildings at Malheur’s field station in exchange for board and an unforgettable week of birding and field natural history. Yet as the refuge floods back to me for the first time in years, Malheur – and indeed much of our public lands heritage – strike me as unremembered. How many Americans had never heard of Malheur – the crown jewel of the national wildlife refuge system – before armed protesters closed it to the people this week? And what number of us feel connected to the history and significance of its creation?

Malheur is among the more than 280,000 square miles of federal land set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt as national parks, monuments, game refuges, and bird sanctuaries. “We are not building this country of ours for a day,” he wrote. “It is to last through the ages.”

Theodore Roosevelt understood the enormous energies that were being loosed in America. And he saw that among the things they could devour, these forces, if not contained, would be some of the irreplaceable beauties of the country.

George Will, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History”

More than a century after Roosevelt’s conservation presidency armed protesters have closed down one of his creations, seeking a fundamental shift in the governance of our public lands. I won’t speak to the politics of this event beyond wishing for a safe and expeditious resolution. But I will take this opportunity to share some of what Theodore Roosevelt saw – and heard – in the American landscapes he felt compelled to protect in perpetuity.

He wrote joyously about birds and their songs:

Of snow buntings:23794392759_93bd95c83f_z

Every few moments one of them would mount into the air, hovering about with quivering wings and warbling a loud, merry song with some very sweet notes. They were a most welcome little group of guests…


Of meadowlarks:

One of our sweetest, loudest songsters is the meadow-lark…the plains air seems to give it a voice, and it will perch on the top of a bush or tree and sing for hours in rich, bubbling tones…Its song has variety, power, and rich melody and there in it sometimes a cadence of wild sadness, inexpressibly touching.


Of the mourning dove:419493070_98ca0d9b18_z

From the upper branches of the cottonwood trees overhead…comes every now and then the soft, melancholy cooing of the mourning dove, whose voice always seems far away and expresses more than any other sound in nature the sadness of gentle, hopeless, never-ending grief.


He wrote of the hermit thrush’s song:

The serene ethereal beauty of the hermit’s song rising and falling through the still evening under the archways of hoary mountain forests that have endured from time everlasting…


Of the “remarkable and almost amphibious little water-wren [American dipper]:2313530208_736aab408f_z

With its sweet song, its familiarity, its very curious habit of running on of the stream several feet beneath surface of the race of rapid water, is the most noticeable of the small birds of the Rocky Mountains. It sometimes sings loudly while half spread wings on the surface of a pool.


He wrote of the “wilder, harsher, stronger sounds of the wilderness”; the sage grouse:

The guttural booming and clucking of the prairie fowl and the great sage fowl in spring…


And of flights of geese and cranes:2510083315_8ac5826aa5_z

The honking of gangs of wild geese as they fly in rapid wedges;…or the far off clanging of many sandhill cranes soaring high overhead in circles which cross and recross at an incredible altitude.


It is of note that all of the songs above – songs that more than a century ago inspired Teddy Roosevelt to set aside some of the “irreplaceable beauties of America” – can be heard on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, along with more than 310 other bird species. You can listen to more recordings – from national wildlife refuges, national parks, and across the American West – at

The Acoustic Atlas is curated by the Montana State University Library and includes more than 2500 recordings of species and environments from throughout the Western United States. Our collection emphasizes the strong connection between natural sounds and regional ecosystems, and features a growing number of recordings from Montana and the Yellowstone corridor. Sounds are provided with the help of volunteers, researchers, and through collaborations with agencies like the National Park Service.

Sources: The Works of Theodore Roosevelt: The Wilderness Hunter, Theodore Roosevelt’s Ranch Life and the Hunting TrailTheodore Roosevelt QuotesThe Roosevelts: An Intimate History, and Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. 

Snow Bunting“, “Western Meadowlark (0000490)“, “Mourning Dove“, “Hermit Thrush“, “American Dipper song” audio files copyright 2014, Kevin Colver, all rights reserved; “Sandhill Crane and geese, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park” audio file copyright 2009, the Western Soundscape Archive at the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library, used in accordance with Creative Commons BY-ND-NC 2.0; “Greater Sage Grouse and coyotes” audio file copyright 2006, Jeff Rice, all rights reserved.

Images used in accordance with Creative Commons BY-ND-NC 2.0: “Snow Bunting” by flickr user Tom Benson; “Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) DSC_0069“, “Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) DSC_0054” and “Ross’ Geese (Chen rossii) DSC_0104” by flickr user Dan Dzurisin; “Mourning Dove / Tourterelle Triste” by flickr user Eric Begin; “Hermit Thrush” by flickr user Kelly Colgan Azar; “American Dipper – Part 5 – Taking a Bow!” by flickr user Rick Leche – Photography. 

Writing sound: Thoreau and the wood thrush

We often find inspiration for tweeting sounds from the Acoustic Atlas in the words of poets, authors, and naturalists.

Alas, 140 characters are too few to do justice to many of these descriptions. So we turn to these pages to pair longer passages with recordings of the species and spaces that inspired them.

"Wood Thrush" by Kelly Colgan Azar used in accordance with CC BY-ND 2.0. Take, for example, this oft-noted description of the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) by Henry David Thoreau:

I admire the moderation of this master. There is nothing tumultuous in his song. He launches forth one strain with all his heart and life and soul; a pure and unmatchable melody and then he pauses and gives the hearer and himself time to digest this. And then another and another at suitable intervals.

Take a listen:


Thoreau’s description captures the cadence and honesty of the Wood Thrush’s refrain. His admiration for this bird extends beyond his apt observations:

This is the only bird whose note affects me like music, affects the flow and tenor of my thought, my fancy and imagination. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It is a medicative draught to my soul. It is an elixir to my eyes and a fountain of youth to all my senses. It changes all hours to an eternal morning…I long for wildness, a nature which I cannot put my foot through, woods where the wood thrush forever sings, where the hours are early morning ones, and there is dew on the grass, and the day is forever unproved, where I might have a fertile unknown for a soil about me.

What species – or soundscape – is your Wood Thrush? Find your “ranz des vaches” at

We first heard Thoreau’s quotations on the Wood Thrush from Radio Open Source’s show “The Art of Wildness”. Source for Thoreau’s quotations: The Writings of Henry David Thoreau: Journal, edited by Bradford Torrey. Image source: “Wood Thrush” by Kelly Colgan Azar used in accordance with CC BY-ND 2.0. Audio file copyright 2014, Kevin Colver. All rights reserved. 

LISTEN: Bats sing a different tune in different environments

Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus). Photo credit NPS/Dylan Schneider.

For #BatWeek, the Acoustic Atlas and Yellowstone National Park bring you a tale of two sounds. Take a listen to two calls of the Little Brown Bat, one of 13 bat species in the park:

Hear a difference? Bats are able to vary the duration, cadence, and frequency range of their echolocation calls to meet their information needs. This clip begins with calls typical of bats foraging in cluttered environments followed by another recording (at the 14 second mark) of calls typical of bats foraging in open environments.

We can also see a difference: the first calls are shorter in duration and closer together, while the second calls occupy a narrower frequency range at a slower cadence.

Sequence of echolocation calls recorded from little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) in different habitats demonstrating differences in frequency range (bandwidth) and interval between calls (cadence).

Echolocation calls of short duration that sweep across a broad frequency range provide more detailed information at short distances. This is important for insectivorous bats that track aerial insects in cluttered environments. Under these conditions, the duration of the call and the interval between calls decreases to reduce the overlap between the outgoing call and returning echo. In open habitat, longer calls over a narrow frequency range are more effective for tracking prey at greater distances.

You can listen to more recordings of Yellowstone’s bat species via the Acoustic Atlas and Yellowstone National Park’s Sound Library.

Special thanks to John Treanor for the use of his Yellowstone bat recordings and to Jennifer Jerrett for producing the clip and the spectrograms.

Wild ringtones for your phone

Testing 2

Looking for a way to bring more of the natural world into your day-to-day life? The Acoustic Atlas now features a selection of ringtones straight out of the wild. Howling coyotes, bubbling mud pots, trilling sandhill cranes, and many more, all available to preview and download for free in mp3 and m4r formats: Thermal_pool_at_Yellowstone_National_Park_Picture_1194Photographer: Ken Thomas, Provider: Wikimedia Commons,

One of our favorites: the Rhinoceros Auklet. Who knew a honking seabird could sound at once prehistoric and futuristic?


While you are visiting, be sure to browse our collection of more than 2100 recordings of the species and environments of Montana and the American West.

Cooperative parenting, Warbling Vireo style

You may have seen our tweet last week linking to Yellowstone National Park’s webcam of a warbling vireo nest:

Today we have something even better to offer: Jennifer Jerrett’s recording of the actual vireos on the Yellowstone nest. While recording on Sunday morning, Jennifer captured a “nest switch”: the male vireo moving off of the nest so that the female can take her turn incubating the eggs.

Take a listen: 

Photo credit: Neal Herbert, Yellowstone National Park.
Photo credit: Neal Herbert, Yellowstone National Park.

The singing bird is the male on the nest. At 25 seconds, you’ll hear the female’s buzzy call to bring the male off the nest. At 34 seconds, you can hear her wing beats as she replaces him and settles in to incubate the eggs.

Yellowstone National Park bird biologist Lisa Baril confirms the context of what we’re hearing: “The males have an incessant drive to defend their space. The [second] call you hear is the female calling the male off so she can get back on the nest.”

As in all relationships, communication is key. How fortunate that Jennifer Jerrett was able to capture this moment for the Acoustic Atlas!

Sounds of the natural world: Acoustic Atlas

Bison in YellowstoneExperience the rumbling snorts of a Bison in Yellowstone. Hear the howl of the mighty grasshopper mouse, or tune into the mysterious underwater calls of frogs. Montana State University Library presents the Acoustic Atlas, a new online initiative featuring the sounds of some of the West’s most iconic species and places. The Acoustic Atlas will collect the sounds of Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, along with habitats and species from throughout the Western United States.

Join us to experience these exciting sounds at This new initiative officially launches at our Friends of MSU Library annual benefit dinner on Thursday, October 17th.

In its first stage, the Acoustic Atlas highlights selected recordings and features from our growing collection. As the project develops, the site will fill gaps in available recordings of regional species and will serve as a digital repository for bioacoustic and soundscape research.

The Atlas will:

  • Document natural soundscapes that are increasingly impeded by human activity and development;
  • Collaborate with researchers and educators in the biological sciences, media arts, human health, education, engineering, philosophy, and the social sciences; and
  • Connect people with the sounds of regional ecosystems and biodiversity.

Bull elk bugling.In the coming months, we will be adding many new recordings to this website. We invite you to listen to samples from the collection, as well as featured recordings from around the region.

Every natural environment — every ecosystem — has its own voice. Explore the fascinating sounds of the West with us as we work to preserve the voice of American wildlands.