Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Research: Sound of Conservation Lab

Professor Darren Proppe's Research

Funding sources

Michigan Space Grant Consortium
Au Sable Institute
Pierce Cedar Creek Institute - URGE
Plaster Creek Stewards
Calvin College Science Division
Cargill Fund

Field locations

Au Sable Institute
Pierce Cedar Creek Institute
Plaster Creek

Lab members

Darren ProppeDarren Proppe

I am interested in how animals respond to novel environments – especially those altered by human development. My research focuses primarily on the vocal responses of songbirds to the increasing levels of anthropogenic (human caused) noise that overlaps their vocal signals. Since these overlapped signals are less detectable, I am investigating mechanisms that species employ to increase the effectiveness of their signals in areas of high noise. I am also investigating the potential that noise exacerbates the loss of some species and homogenation in developed landscapes.

Leanna DeJong

Leanna DeJongLeanna DeJong is entering her junior year at Calvin College where she is pursuing a Biology and Spanish major with a minor in Environmental Studies. She will be joining the Institute for a new research project with Au Sable Professor Darren Proppe (Calvin College) on bird communication and behavior, specifically whether conspecific song playback increases establishment rates for five species of songbirds in Northern Michigan. This will be Leanna's first summer at Au Sable after she changed her biology focus to areas of environmental studies and ecological restoration. Her deep passion and love for biology and for God’s creation propels her academic interests. She has also worked at SpringHill summer camps and is involved in Younglife and Women’s Chorale throughout my time at Calvin College.

Thuy-Nhi Nguyen

Thuy-Nhi NguyenThuy-Nhi Nguyen is entering her senior year at Calvin College where she is majoring in Biology. This will be her first summer at Au Sable Institute as well as her first research experience. She will be joining the Institute for a new research project with Professor Darren Proppe studying communication and establishment rates for Northern Michigan songbirds. She enjoys traveling the world and has been a number of places including Mexico, France, England, Italy and will be heading to Asia for a month this summer after research.  Her extracurricular work includes being a volunteer at Metro Health and the local animal shelter and being Vice President of the Calvin Culinary Club.  In her free time, she enjoys walking her dog, taking long bike rides, swimming, and tubing down the river.

Past Student Researchers

Jenna KennedyJenna Kennedy

I am majoring in Biology and minoring in Public Health.  I am interested in behavior, health, and sustainability.  I love spending time with friends, sailing, and painting.  I am looking forward to learning more about birds this summer and how noise affects their behavior. 



Emily FinchEmily Finch

I am going into my third year at Calvin College as an Environmental Science major, Biology concentration, and a minor in Spanish. I have a passion for the environment: conserving it, studying it, and just enjoying the great outdoors. I am so blessed by the ways I have been able to act out all of these things. I live on a themed floor in my dorm that is dedicated to environmental stewardship and outdoor recreation. So I have been able to go sea kayaking in Lake Michigan and do prairie restoration work in Kent County. Because of my course of study, I have learned so much about not only ecosystem biology, but other disciplines as well such as cell biology and genetics. The knowledge I have gained has come into good use as well as this past year I had the pleasure of serving in a new student leadership position at Calvin College as a Sustainability Coordinator which meant that I helped educate the Calvin Community about environmental issues as well as encourage others to find ways to help out the planet whether through small things like recycling or using a reusable water bottle or bigger things like helping to clean up the Grand River. It is this kind of work that I really enjoy: finding ways to help bring the planet back to a healthier state through my research and then joining with others to do our share and become better stewards of our home.

Because I enjoy research that will help us better understand our impacts in the environment, I am excited to be researching the effects of urbanization on bird singing patterns. I am also thrilled to be working with birds because I am on my way to becoming an avid birder. I started three years ago in my last year of high school with a biology class. Our last unit was birding and I loved it. Sitting and listening to the sounds around me trying to pick out which bird is coming from which direction and then training my binoculars on one was so perfect to me: it was peaceful and relaxing to listen to nature, but thrilling trying to find the bird, identify it, and then quickly sketch it in my bird book. I look forward to improving my skills and doing more in-depth work with birds.

Dean PettingaDean Pettinga
My name is Dean Pettinga. I'm a proud native Michigander biology student graduating from Calvin in 2014. I have a special interest in both conservation and restoration ecology, especially within watershed systems. These large systems support an endless amount of chemical and ecological systems to study. I enjoy studying not only wildlife and chemical systems, but also how humans interact as highly influential actors in these systems. My other biological interests included alpine ecology, wildflower identification, and marine creatures. Since I was a kid, I've always had a keen interest in cephalopods and creatures of the deep sea. Apart from biology, I love bicycling, hiking, and traveling when I can. I love films of all varieties. I'm also an audiophile, always looking for fresh new music especially concerning the endless diversity and creativity wrapped up in the ever-evolving world of hip-hop music.



Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nulla ut nibh.


Lorem ipsum dolor sitamet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nulla ut nibh.