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Flickering lights

Are firefly populations declining? Last year, the Museum of Science, Boston, in partnership with Tufts University and Fitchburg State College, developed Firefly Watch, a citizen science project, to help find out. The museum is asking volunteers to check their backyards for fireflies, one evening a week for 10 minutes throughout the summer, and to report their observations on the Firefly Watch web site. On the site, visitors can also learn about different types of fireflies, read featured research papers about them, and explore data that has been collected by the project so far. The National Children’s Museum, Washington, D.C., also has created a web site, Ready, Set, Glow!, to encourage children to participate.

Citizen science projects like Firefly Watch are engaging a growing number of people in working with scientists to investigate everything from light pollution to backyard birds. A report on Public Participation in Scientific Research describes more of these programs; it’s available in PDF format (3 MB) from the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education.

About the image: Firefly Watch encourages the public to participate in research by oberserving fireflies in their own backyards. Photo by Don Salvatore, Firefly Watch, Museum of Science