When leaders of the Recreational Aviation Foundation work to protect access to backcountry airstrips, one objection they often hear from park officials is that the noise disturbs wildlife, says RAF executive director John McKenna — a claim he hopes to dispute, thanks to a $10,000 research grant from AOPA’s new “Giving Back” grant program. “We don’t know for sure if the noise disturbs the animals or if it doesn’t,” he said. “But with this study, we’ll be able to get some data.” The RAF grant application was written by four Ph.Ds from various universities, said McKenna, who have volunteered to do the study and plan to submit their research to a peer-reviewed publication to provide scholarly credibility to their results.
McKenna said that when his group is advocating to protect access, disturbance to wildlife often is raised as a concern. “This is just one box on a list,” he said. “But it’s close to the top of the list. It’s not the only factor, but it’s a big one.” He said the scientists who will conduct the study hope to use the AOPA grant as seed money to attract more funding. They will try to determine the stress effects by measuring hormone levels in blood samples and scat from wildlife in noisy areas, and compare it to similar tests done in quiet areas. McKenna added that since airplanes don’t require roads, they actually have a lower impact than many other modes of transportation into parks. AOPA awarded $10,000 grants to nine other nonprofit groups to support their work in the aviation community. The winners were chosen from a pool of more than 80 applicants.