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How do animals react to eclipses? Aid NASA find out.

A colossal citizen science project isall set to study how the animal kingdom responds to April 8’s total solar eclipse.

Tens of millions of sky-watchers are expected to witness the total solar eclipse above North America on 8th April. Shrieks, cries, and cheers will welcome the totality—the few transitory minutes when day turns to haunting dusk. But humans won’t be the lone species affected.

The unexpected darkness disrupts animals’ circadian rhythms, triggering a possible chorus of cricket chirps, owl hoots, or even coyote calls, depending on the eclipse-viewing site. For centuries, biologists and watchers have shared anecdotes about how animals react to eclipses, hitherto few formal studies have tested this. NASA is optimistic about changing that this year—and you could provide aid.

Through this citizen-science project (termed Eclipse Soundscapes), NASA is studying how these astronomical marvels effect the animal kingdom. Eclipse buffs have a host of ways to participate: analyzing audio, recording data, or submitting their own multisensory observations, informs Henry Trae Winter III (co-lead on the Eclipse Soundscapes project and co-founder and chief scientist of the ARISA Lab).

The project, inspired by a very similar citizen-science study from the eclipse of 1932 over New England, focuses on how crickets reacts to the event’s false dusk. These insects are largely dispersed across the U.S.’s path of eclipse totality from Texas to Maine, offer an ideal opportunity for extensive comparison. “If there’s something different in the south than the north, we can pull out why,” says Henry, stating they can analyze everything from temperature variances to eclipse duration (which will start at approximately 1:45 p.m. and will continue till about 4:30 p.m. EST) to analyse varying reactions. This intel could assist scientists in modelling how future weather events such as storms could affect animals.

While Eclipse Soundscapes focuses on crickets, which Henry says eclipse-enthusiasts could hear any place that’s above 55 degrees Fahrenheit on eclipse day, the team’s colossal data set—likely to be among the largest soundscapes recordings in history—will be open and free to the public.

To participate as an Eclipse Soundscapes observer, Henry suggests evading large-scale eclipse gatherings where crowd chatter will drown out critter sounds. Instead, he advices to eavesdrop on the animal kingdom via wild and remote natural sites such as Cache River State Natural Area in Illinois, Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, and Letchworth State Park in New York.


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