You can track how wildlife responds to 2017 solar eclipse

wildlife eclipse
Birds fly as the moon covers the sun in a solar eclipse. Image by Igor Zh./Shutterstock

How does life respond to the dramatic event of a total solar eclipse?

There is some evidence that plant and animal life react to the environmental changes that occur during a total solar eclipse. As the sky darkens and the temperature drops, birds reportedly stop singing, spiders may tear down their webs, and gray squirrels retreat to their dens, among other observed behaviors. Much of these reports, however, are anecdotal or documented with captive animals.

Map: 20 wildlife refuges in eclipse’s path

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross the continental United States, from coast to coast. The California Academy of Sciences invites citizen scientists like you to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to record eclipse-related animal behavior.

How to participate

Before the eclipse:
1. Download the iNaturalist app and make an account.
2. Practice making observations. Check out the Getting Started Guide for helpful tips.
3. Join the Life Responds project.
4. Decide where you will be viewing the eclipse and know when the eclipse will be at maximum at your location. Use this map to help determine that time.

Day of the eclipse (Aug 21):
1. Once you arrive at your site, scout your area for animals and plants. Choose the individual organism(s) you want to observe.
2. During the eclipse, make three separate observations for each individual organism using the iNaturalist app, adding each of them to the “Life Responds” project:

1st observation: 30 minutes before totality (or maximum coverage) make an observation in iNaturalist. Add anything interesting you notice about their behavior in the “Notes” section.
2nd observation: During totality (or maximum coverage) make a second observation in iNaturalist. Add anything interesting you notice about their behavior in the “Notes” section.
3rd observation: 30 minutes after totality (or maximum coverage) make a third and final observation in iNaturalist. Add anything interesting you notice about their behavior in the “Notes” section.

You’re welcome to make other observations of your organism(s) beyond these three – just be sure to choose the time frame in which you made these other observations in “Before, During, or After Totality” field.

Will you be within the area of totality and already have your phone (or camera) out snapping pictures? Check out the Eclipse Megamovie 2017 project from Google and UC Berkeley that will compile photographs taken of the eclipse from across the country to see how you can contribute.

Are you involved in behavioral ecology? Interested in how certain life forms react to eclipses? Could widespread records of behavior changes inform your research? The academy is looking for both scientific and engagement partners.

For questions or more information, please contact: [email protected]


Read more: The Life Responds Project from iNaturalist

Read more: 20 wildlife refuges in path of solar eclipse


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