firefly on flower bud.jpg

A firefly perched atop a Coreopsis flower bud.

Mass Audubon invites North American citizen scientists of all ages and skill levels to participate in a summertime data collection project. Taking part is easier than it sounds; all it takes is 10 minutes per week of sitting in your back yard or another chosen location watching fireflies, then filling out some forms with information about what you saw or didn't see.

To get started, read through the instructions and required information and choose a location. The area should be relatively small, easy to observe, and cohesive. By "cohesive," this means a manicured lawn bordering a forest would count as two separate habitats: the lawn and the forest. For each weekly watching session, record the date, habitat type, temperature, precipitation, wind, cloud cover, and level of artificial light present in the area.

Once you have your location's characteristics recorded, start counting flashing fireflies in your vicinity and take note of any differences in light flashing patterns. Fireflies may make a single flash every few seconds, a pair of flashes every few seconds, or several flashes in quick succession.

Once you have your data, fill out a Firefly Watch Observation Form and submit it through Mass Audubon's online portal. Even if you don't see any fireflies, the data is still useful!

Data collected from the project will be used by Mass Audubon and Tufts University to determine information about firefly populations, such as whether the population is increasing or declining, if the fireflies appear to have migrated in a meaningful way, and what factors may cause changes in population numbers.

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