Friday, June 27, 2014

Firefly Watch

It's officially summer! Do you know how I can tell? The fireflies are out! I love fireflies, chasing after them in the dark is a cherished childhood memory. I don't feel like it's summer until I catch one, peek in my hands to watch it flash, and then watch it fly away. Boo and I have hunted for fireflies since he was little and I hope someday it will be one of his cherished childhood memories too.

Imagine my excitement when I discovered Firefly Watch, a citizen science project from the Museum of Science, Boston. It takes a little bit of energy to get registered because they have you pinpoint close to your area on a map and then describe the habitat in a small amount of detail. But once you get it set up, then all of that information is there and you just report on the fireflies.
Firefly Watch Home page: https://legacy.mos.org/fireflywatch

The scientists are hoping to track firefly behavior across the U.S. and investigate the potential effects of man-made lights and pesticide applications. You can observe the fireflies throughout the summer, 10 minutes one night a week. Their observation sheet is a little long and will need to be completed by the adult. But kids can easily be involved!

First, sit down with the family and have everyone look at the virtual habitat which explains the 3 main observations: color, pattern and location. For color, there are 3: green, yellow-green and orange/red. Pattern is the number of flashes, single, double, triple, quadruple, more than 4, flicker. Location describes where was the firefly when you saw it, was it flying or sitting on something (bush/grass/etc.). Fairly simple stuff! I think even young kids could have fun keeping count of their fireflies and it would be a good sit in the backyard and practice observation skills activity.

The adult can be responsible for most of the environmental conditions (and I recommend you write all of that down before you start your observations!). But if you can get the kids involved even better! My suggestion would be to have the whole family evaluate and write down the conditions before everyone uses their own simple firefly counter I'll post below. If you have a thermometer around, let the kids measure the temperature in the backyard. You can discuss/observe the other conditions, cloud cover, precipitation, wind, and moonlight with the kids. If you're doing this over time, it can even lead to having the kids hypothesize about what conditions might be changing the firefly observations from one night to the next.

Once you have collected all your data, pool it into a single report. Then you log in and submit your observation. I have had some trouble doing this in Firefox but it always seems to work in Internet Explorer and I have not yet tried Chrome. So if you are having problems, try changing the browser.

Have you ever done a citizen science project? Do you like catching fireflies? I hope you'll give Firefly Watch a try and if you do please post your experience in the comments!

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