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WNC Citizen Scientists Wanted for Eclipse Animal Project

The summer’s most anticipated celestial event is almost here.  Big crowds are expected here in Western North Carolina for Monday’s Great American Eclipse.  But as BPR’s Helen Chickering reports, people won’t be the only ones reacting to the dramatic changes in the sky

“That’s one of the most common questions people ask, you know.  Do animals really do strange things during an eclipse?” says NASA Scientist Jennifer Heldmann.

“And it turns out its true, there are documented cases, all of a sudden it seems like it is night time, you know cows go into the barn, chickens going into the coop, dolphins come up and look out of the water and that sort of thing, you can do your own experiment at home to see how your animals react to the solar eclipse,”  says Heldmann.

And that’s just what’s happening at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, home to over 60 species of animals, native to the Appalachian ecosystem.

“We’ve had a lot of phone calls, people saying, what are your wolves going to be doing during the eclipse?  And we say, well we’re not quite sure.”  

Nature Center Education Curator Keith Mastin says the center is inviting the public to take part in an eclipse animal observation project.

“They will be receiving a pair of glasses for free, (one per family) and they can select a data form and they can select any animal they’d like to observe at the nature center, they could do wild bird observation – or even the squirrels, which we have plenty of!”

Those observations will be collected and shared with the citizen science project, iNaturalist

“And it actually goes to a national animal database so researchers can come in pull that information on specific animals and use that for future use for discovery of our biology and ecology of the Appalachian ecosystem – that’s pretty exciting!” says Westin.

The Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville will start animal observations during the beginning of the Eclipse cycle around 1 o’clock on August 21.  Can’t make it to the Nature Center?  You can still participate in the iNaturalist animal observation project, click here for more information.   

Worried about a pet during the Eclipse?  Check out these tips

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.