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Bill McQuay

Bill McQuay is an audio producer with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For fifteen years McQuay was an NPR sound engineer and technical director for NPR programs including Morning Edition, Weekend Saturday and Sunday, Performance Today and NPR's Radio Expeditions. Radio Expeditions is where McQuay began his long time collaboration with NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce, a creative relationship that continues today.

McQuay led NPR's early surround-sound recording effort and was its first technical director. Many of these surround-sound recordings were featured in Radio Expeditions Presents, a public event sponsored by NPR and its member stations throughout the country. In 2007, McQuay, along with a team from NPR and the National Geographic Society, presented a 'Concert of Animal Sounds' in the Forbidden City Concert Hall Beijing, China featuring the surround sound recordings from Radio Expeditions. McQuay was also the mastering engineer for NPR Classics CD's.

In addition to his recent work with Christopher Joyce heard on Morning Edition, McQuay has recently collaborated with NPR Senior Interactive Designer Wes Lindamood to create a series of 'made for headphone listening' soundscapes available on NPR's Sound Cloud.

McQuay's work with NPR has received a variety of awards including a Grammy for the NPR recording of the Benjamin Britten War Requiem in 2000, a 2001 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Journalism award with the Radio Expeditions reporting and editing team, and a 2002 individual artist award from the Maryland State Arts Council. In 2016 McQuay shared in the Communication Award from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine for the NPR series Close Listening: Decoding Nature Through Sound.

Every place has its own sound. A small group of scientists is hard at work recording the natural sounds of national parks all across the U.S. — more than 70 soundscapes so far.

For our series on the centennial of the national parks, we traveled to Colorado, to find out how they create these portraits of sound.

First Lesson: It's Very Hard To Escape The Sound Of Humans.

Acoustic biologists who have learned to tune their ears to the sounds of life know there's a lot more to animal communication than just, "Hey, here I am!" or "I need a mate."

From insects to elephants to people, we animals all use sound to function and converse in social groups — especially when the environment is dark, or underwater or heavily forested.

The natural world is abuzz with the sound of animals communicating — crickets, birds, even grunting fish. But scientists learning to decode these sounds say the secret signals of African elephants — their deepest rumblings — are among the most intriguing calls any animal makes.