Solar Eclipse

Photo by Luc Viatour (CC-BY-SA)


The next solar eclipse is crossing the U.S. on August 21, 2017. Watch this video for important tips on how to observe it safely.

How does life respond to the dramatic event of a total solar eclipse?

There is some evidence that plant and animal life react to the environmental changes that occur during a total solar eclipse. As the sky darkens and the temperature drops, birds reportedly stop singing, spiders may tear down their webs, and gray squirrels retreat to their dens, among other observed behaviors. Much of these reports, however, are anecdotal or documented with captive animals.

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross the continental United States, from coast to coast. The Academy invites citizen scientists like you to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to record eclipse-related animal behavior with the iNaturalist app.

Before the eclipse:

  1. Download the iNaturalist app on the App Store or Google Play and make an account.
  2. Practice making observations. Check out the Getting Started Guide for helpful tips.
  3. Join the Life Responds project on iNaturalist.
  4. Decide where you will be viewing the eclipse and know when the eclipse will be at maximum at your location. Use this map to help determine that time.

Day of the eclipse (Aug 21):

  1. Once you arrive at your site, scout your area for animals and plants. Choose the individual organism(s) you want to observe.
  2. During the eclipse, make 3 separate observations for each individual organism using the iNaturalist app, adding each of them to the "Life Responds" project:
    • 1st: 30 minutes before totality (or maximum coverage) make an observation in iNaturalist. Add anything interesting you notice about their behavior in the "Notes" section.
    • 2nd: During the 5 minutes of totality (or maximum coverage) make a second observation in iNaturalist. Add anything interesting you notice about their behavior in the "Notes" section.
    • 3rd: 30 minutes after totality (or maximum coverage) make a third and final observation in iNaturalist. Add anything interesting you notice about their behavior in the "Notes" section.
    • You're welcome to make other observations of your organism(s) beyond these three - just be sure to choose the time frame in which you made these other observations in "Before, During, or After Totality" field.

Will you be within the area of totality and already have your phone (or camera) out snapping pictures? Check out the Eclipse Megamovie 2017 project from Google and UC Berkeley that will compile photographs taken of the eclipse from across the country to see how you can contribute.

Are you involved in behavioral ecology? Interested in how certain life forms react to eclipses? Could widespread records of behavior changes inform your research? We are looking for both scientific and engagement partners.

For questions or more information, please contact:

About the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017

Map of solar eclipse

About the August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse:

  • This will be the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years. 
  • Totality lasts a maximum of 2 minutes and 40.2 seconds. 
  • Everyone in the continental U.S. will see at least a partial eclipse.

Teachers are invited to watch a recorded webinar in which you'll learn activities to engage your students in developing and using models to understand how eclipses happen.

Classrooms are also invited to attend a free, two-part webchat series which prepares them for the event, and allows them to share their observations with students around the country! 

Follow the links below to learn more: 

Institutional Participation

Annular Eclipse, photo by Eric Leslie (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Are you part of a science center, museum, zoo, or other organization that is interested in having your community take part in this citizen science initiative? If so, click below to sign up for more information about Solar Eclipse 2017: Life Responds. We will send out periodic updates about the project and how to participate.

Photo by Eric Leslie (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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The work we do utilizes iNaturalist to make biodiversity observations while building community around nature. It's a community-powered website and app that makes it easy to upload and share your observations in the field and to get help from other users with flora and fauna IDs.