Saturday, August 19, 2017

How Will Animals React to the Solar Eclipse? Americans, Scientists, Zoos Await Answers

Pam Wright
Published: August 19,2017

People nationwide are being asked to observe animals during the eclipse and participate in an unprecedented attempt at crowdsources scientific research.
(Pam Wright/
While humans have a pretty good grasp on what will happen during Monday's solar eclipse, our furry friends may find themselves a little more confused. One of the cooler projects that will be going on during the eclipse is a crowdsourcing study to document how animals react to the eclipse.
Nashville Zoo veterinarian and researcher Margarita Woc Colburn told the Washington Post she and others at the zoo, which will be in the direct path of the eclipse's totality, will be keeping a close eye on the animals to see what reaction if any, they exhibit.
She said she believes birds will likely be the most animated.
“We might see something similar with the starlings,” she told the Post. “I’m interested to see whether they go to roost. It will get very noisy if they do.”
Other animals may also exhibit nocturnal habits as the sun hides behind the moon, mimicking night time.
Surprisingly, there is little research on animal behavior during solar eclipses, in part because they are so few and far between.
“I would have thought by now we would know more,” Woc Colburn said. “It will be worth noting if they have a very negative reaction. We can share that with other zoos and places, and they might take note and take certain precautions. But I’m not really expecting anything besides the ordinary night time routine."
Still, there are a few studies out there. A 2009 Chinese report discovered that cicadas and birds significantly altered their songs and behaviors in response to a July 22, 2009, eclipse. Spiders have also reportedly torn down their webs during an eclipse.
"It is clear that animals respond to the eclipse," National Park Service scientist Kurt Fristrup with the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, said in a statement to Live Science. "The question is going to be, how much of that response is detectable acoustically? We could see dramatic changes. Past research has studied individual sites during an eclipse, and a few papers have been published, but no one has looked at this phenomenon on a continental scale."
With that in mind, Woc Colburn, other scientists and scientist wannabees will have an opportunity to do so on Monday.
(MORE: Follow Monday's Great American Eclipse Live)
People nationwide are being asked to observe animals during the eclipse and participate in an unprecedented attempt at crowdsourced scientific research.
To participate, download the California Academy of Sciences' iNaturalist app and document your pet's reaction and/or other animals you observe outdoors.
The researchers in Nashville will also collect data they find on social media postings that tag the zoo.
Woc Colburn said it will be interesting and potentially useful to learn how the disruption to animal's natural circadian rhythms are affected by the eclipse.
“But I think you’ll have more human reactions than animal reactions,” Woc Colburn said.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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