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The Museum of Science has noted that over the last few years, anecdotal evidence points to a decline in firefly numbers. But no one knows for sure if this is true, so they've started a 10-year program coordinating volunteer citizen scientists to start counting. In it's third year, the Firefly Watch is mapping sightings and information about the bioluminescent backyard bug to find out if it's an insect on the decline, and if so, why.
Firefly Watch is a project by the Museum of Science, Tufts University and Fitchburg State University. It is based on citizen scientists going out into the backyard to enjoy an evening outdoors (or even just a few minutes), counting lights that blink across the lawn. The findings show scientists what needs to be studied further, such as why fireflies are showing up much farther west than their usual habitat, and whether or not the numbers are dipping year over year.
The information is open to the public, and you can dive into the data collected so far, checking out maps with information on where the bugs were spotted, how many, the lighting conditions in the location, and the temperature when they were spotted.
Whether or not fireflies are declining is the first question, but if it turns out to have a "yes" answer then a whole slew of questions opens up -- is it urban sprawl destroying habitat, backyard pesticides, changing temperatures, light pollution...? Thankfully, much of the needed data to start in on these questions will already be logged in the Firefly Watch database.
If you're interested in participating, check out Firefly Watch for details on how to get started.
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