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Total Eclipse 2024: NASA Investigates Strange Animal Behavior

Scientists seek public help to study animal behavior during solar eclipse. NASA-funded project aims to collect sights and sounds during event.

During a solar eclipse, when certain parts of the U.S. are plunged into total darkness during the day, scientists are eager to observe how animals behave and are seeking the public's assistance in this endeavor.

The "Eclipse Soundscapes Project," funded by NASA, aims to capture the sights and sounds of the total solar eclipse set to occur on Monday, April 8th in the afternoon. Scientists are interested in recording how various ecosystems respond to the sudden change in lighting conditions.

For centuries, reports have surfaced about strange behaviors exhibited by plants and animals during eclipses, yet the underlying reasons for these changes remain largely unknown. While eclipses are typically viewed as visual events, the project spokesperson, Kelsey Perrett, emphasizes the importance of studying them through a multi-sensory approach, including sound and tactile observations.

Some peculiar reactions observed in nature during eclipses include birds ceasing to sing, crickets starting to chirp, and bees hurriedly returning to their hives. In regions where sunlight is completely obscured, known as the path of totality, the environment can resemble dusk, temperatures may drop, and certain stars become visible. These alterations can disrupt animals' usual daytime behaviors.

Researchers from North Carolina State University, led by biological sciences professor Adam Hartstone-Rose, are also conducting studies on animal behavior during eclipses. Following a previous study during the 2017 total solar eclipse, which revealed surprising behaviors in 17 species at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in South Carolina, the team is now exploring the impact of eclipses on animals at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas.

The Eclipse Soundscapes Project is a modern-day recreation of a study conducted by American scientist William Wheeler after a total solar eclipse in 1932. Wheeler's study recorded nearly 500 public observations, and the current project is seeking additional volunteers to contribute audio recordings and written observations of their experiences during the eclipse.

Of particular interest is the study of cricket behavior to determine if nocturnal animals exhibit different behaviors during an eclipse. By collecting a wealth of audio data and observations from participatory scientists, researchers hope to gain a deeper understanding of how eclipses influence various ecosystems.

The project offers opportunities for individuals to get involved, regardless of whether they are located within the path of totality. Participants can visit the Eclipse Soundscapes Project website to learn about eclipses, submit their observations, and assist in analyzing data.

Some data collectors will utilize an AudioMoth device equipped with a microSD card to record sounds during the eclipse, while others may opt to document their experiences in writing. Data analysts will review the recorded audio to help interpret the findings.

Ultimately, the success of this scientific inquiry into how eclipses impact life on Earth hinges on the data volunteered by participants. By collaborating with project partners and facilitators, the research team aims to gather a wealth of information spanning the entire eclipse path, far exceeding what a small team could achieve alone.

Participants who contribute to the project will receive a downloadable certificate as a token of appreciation for their valuable contributions.

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