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Lightning in a bottle | research and creative discovery | Clemson University

Lightning in a bottle

by Melanie Kieve

Photo by Ashley Jones.


Is the firefly, which gives a summer night its sparkle, fading into darkness? Will tomorrow’s children have no dancing, flashing light to chase around the yard, no glowing jars with perforated lids?

Reports about dwindling numbers of fireflies have been circulating for years, and the Clemson University Vanishing Firefly Project is trying to find out what’s up. Now in its fifth year, the project has asked the public for help. It invites citizen scientists to count the number of fireflies they see in their fields of vision in sixty seconds and record the data through the project’s smartphone app or website.

According to Michelle Cook, project coleader, data will be collected over several years from different habitats across South Carolina, the United States, and other countries to determine the impact of human activity on firefly populations. Topics for study include land-use patterns, soil and leaf litter quality, light pollution, and weather.

To download the counting apps or access more information, visit the Vanishing Firefly Project.

Michelle Cook is an associate professor of science education in Clemson’s Eugene T. Moore School of Education, College of Health, Education, and Human Development. The Vanishing Firefly Project is a collaboration that includes the Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, part of Clemson’s Public Service Activities.

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