Sam: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach.
Christine: And I’m Christine from NIU Outdoor Adventures. During our trips, we stress the idea of “Leave No Trace.”
Sam: Leave No Trace, like a stealthy rogue hiker?
Christine: No, more like a responsible and conscientious hiker. It’s simple things like picking up trash, sticking to the trails, and not feeding the animals.
Sam: Well that all seems logical, but I imagine there are reasons behind the ethics.
Christine: Sure. Let’s start with a common violation -- feeding animals. Wildlife should stay wild, and part of that means they should be afraid of humans. That’s for their protection and ours. When we give animals our food, or leave food waste behind, wildlife begins to associate human food with safety. A comfortable animal is more likely to stand its ground and fight you rather than run away.
Sam: Speaking of waste…
Christine: Food waste and litter are ugly, but they also pollute fragile ecosystems. We see videos like sea turtles caught in soda rings all the time, but those things happen in deserts and forests too. Plastic can also break down and ruin natural water sources. And if you think, “Oh it’s just one wrapper,” consider that a thousand people probably thought the same thing and now there’s a thousand wrappers.
Sam: You mentioned sticking to trails. What’s wrong with blazing a new trail through an easier area?
Christine: Any trail is going to speed up erosion and prevent plant life from growing, but if we consolidate our destruction, we’ll help mitigate the effects. As we walk, we remove topsoil, destroy supportive roots, and trample new vegetation. That can weaken an ecosystem making them more susceptible to flash floods, and push nutrient-rich soil into gullies or waterways.
Sam: So every little thing matters. Any parting words?
Christine: Take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints.
Sam: Thanks Christine! I look forward to joining you and Outdoor Adventures for one of your upcoming trips! This has been The Sound of Science on WNIJ.
Christine: Where you learn something new every day.