Firefly Watch

Firefly Watch

Researchers at Boston's Museum of Science have teamed up with Tufts University and Fitchburg State College to track the fate of fireflies across the U.S. via Firefly Watch. With help from citizen scientists, the researchers hope to learn about the geographic distribution of fireflies and their activity during the summer season.

Fireflies (which are actually a type of beetle) may be affected by human-made light, lawn care (they tend to sleep in the grass during the day) and pesticides. The researchers seek to discover to what degree these and other factors are diminishing firefly populations.

Citizen scientists will learn to identify firefly flash colors, patterns and locations and record this information online for communal use.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Don Salvatore, Project Coordinator
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: Boston Museum of Science
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Register at the Museum of Science's Firefly Watch Web site. The researchers in charge of the project want to know if citizen scientists have fireflies in their backyards this summer (or in a nearby field if they don't have a backyard). Even if they don't see fireflies, their data is valuable. Data is entered onto a map on the Web site for all to view.

See more projects in FreeObservationAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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