Sound Advice

When my firm won an on-call contract with the Forest Service last summer, we knew that we would still have to compete with several other entities for upcoming projects. But one group in particular is getting all the good work and I can’t help but feel a little slighted. They are the perfect enemy. They have commitment, teamwork, an established track record and the ability to siphon millions of dollars that would have gone to trails, visitor centers and the occasional fire tower. We should all work as well together as…the pine beetle.

But I’m not writing to complain. I’m writing to spread hope in a novel approach a colleague told me about from this month’s Atlantic. The article introduces a unique application of military technology that uses sound to disrupt these miniature killing machines. It turns out we should have been paying more attention to the convenience store owner who gets rid of loitering teenagers by blasting high pitched frequencies that only their young ears can still hear.

My favorite part was that some research has been done on exactly what kinds of sound it takes to rattle a beetle. They tried heavy metal music and even backwards recordings of a certain radio talk show host. The worst noise to a beetle, it turns out, is their own voice amplified back at them. Which makes me think they suffer from the same problem I do when I hear my voicemails played back …do I really sound like that?!

Bombarding every tree in a forest would be pretty impossible, but they mention creating an acoustic firebreak along a ribbon of trees that could protect healthy forests on the other side. I love hearing about these kinds of cross-fertilized ideas from various sectors of our world that spark innovation and find solutions to widespread problems. I know I’ll crank up my radio the next time I take an afternoon drive.

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