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Boise State Researcher Gets $529,000 NASA Grant to Study Effects of Light, Noise on Wildlife

By: Cienna Madrid   Published 8:25 am / May 24, 2017

Neil CarterA team of researchers led by Boise State assistant professor Neil Carter have been awarded a $529,000 grant from NASA to study the effects of human-made light and noise on wildlife in the United States.

Carter and his team will be collaborating closely with the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division. The project is titled “Using NASA resources to better inform wildlife conservation in the Anthropocene: Spatially predicting impacts of anthropogenic nightlight and noise on wildlife habitat integrity across the contiguous United States.” The project will utilize nightlight data collected by NASA’s visible infared imaging radiometer suite, along with maps of sound provided by the National Park Service, to assess the effects of human sensory stimuli – such as road noise or light pollution from residential development – on mammal and bird species in the contiguous U.S.

This work is vital as the National Park Service has policy and legislative mandates to conserve acoustic and night sky environments unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. The rapid spread of nightlight and noise across the country jeopardizes wildlife conservation in the park network; however, the effects at landscape scales are relatively unknown and unmapped.

“We’re partnering with NPS to help them integrate this project’s outcomes into future decisions about habitat management, as well as help with public education about managing light and sound for wildlife,” Carter said.

A key outcome of the project will be identifying parks in which the reduction of noise and light pollution would yield the greatest benefits for large landscape conservation. By taking advantage of the National Park Service’s tremendous educational resources and interagency networks, knowledge on the damaging effects of human-caused light and noise pollution can potentially reach millions of park visitors annually.

Carter, who works in the Human-Environment Systems research group in the College of Innovation and Design, is the principal investigator for the project. He is working with co-PIs Clinton Francis from the California Polytechnic State University, Jesse Barber from Boise State, David Stoner of Utah State University and Andrew Molthan from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.