NASA wants you to record crickets during April’s solar eclipse

Here's how to capture nature for the Eclipse Soundscapes Project.
Colorful cricket on green leaf
The behaviors of animals such as birds and crickets can be affected when they see a solar eclipse. Credit: Moment Open / Getty

American scientist William Wheeler not only looked to the sky during a total solar eclipse; he also made sure to pay attention to everything around him. On August 31, 1932, Wheeler and fellow collaborators located throughout the northeastern regions of US and Canada took part in one of the earliest eclipse-related participatory studies to document the celestial event’s effects on wildlife. Volunteers made nearly 500 records of animal and insect reactions that day—nearly a century later, NASA hopes to honor those contributions, as well as exponentially expand on them.

On April 8, the agency is calling for citizen scientist volunteers along the upcoming total solar eclipse’s path to help in its ongoing Eclipse Soundscapes Project. Through a combination of visual, audio, and written recordings, NASA aims to help further researchers’ understanding of the occurrence’s influence on various ecosystems across the country.

As the moon passes in front of the sun, ambient light dims, temperatures fall, and even some stars begin to appear. These sudden environmental shifts have been known to fool animals into behaving as they would at dusk or dawn. According to NASA, the agency is specifically interested in better understanding the behavior of crickets, as well as observing the differences between how nocturnal and diurnal animals may respond.

“The more audio data and observations we have, the better we can answer these questions,” Kelsey Perrett, Communications Coordinator with the Eclipse Soundscapes Project, said in an announcement earlier this month. “Contributions from participatory scientists will allow us to drill down into specific ecosystems and determine how the eclipse may have impacted each of them.”

[Related: Delta’s solar eclipse flight sold out, but your best bet to see it is still down here.]

There are multiple ways any of the roughly 30 million people within the eclipse’s path can participate on April 8. People on or close to the path of totality can act as designated “Data Collectors” by purchasing a relatively low-cost audio recorder called an AudioMoth alongside a micro-SD card to capture surrounding sounds. Meanwhile, “Observers” can write down what they see and hear, then submit them through the project’s website, while “Apprentices” and “Data Analysts” can take quick, free online courses to help assess the incoming data. There are also plenty of options for anyone with sensory accessibility issues, and NASA made sure to include resources for facilitating large groups of volunteers through local schools, libraries, parks, and community centers.