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Refining a 2023 Eclipse Participatory Science Project for a More Accessible and Inclusive Multisensory Eclipse Experience in 2024

Lessons learned from the Eclipse Soundscapes Project.

Published onMar 01, 2024
Refining a 2023 Eclipse Participatory Science Project for a More Accessible and Inclusive Multisensory Eclipse Experience in 2024


The Eclipse Soundscapes Project is a NASA-funded participatory science investigation of how solar eclipses impact life on Earth. Using audio recording devices and other forms of multisensory observation, the project invites the general public to collect soundscapes data — advancing the field of soundscapes ecology and adding to a growing body of evidence that eclipses can be studied in a non-visual manner. The project also seeks to increase participation in eclipse science through a commitment to accessibility and inclusion and an iterative development process in which feedback from participants leads to project improvements. Following beta-testing during the October 14, 2023 annular eclipse, the Eclipse Soundscape Project has collected feedback from various audiences to explore how the project can be improved for the April 8, 2024 Total Solar Eclipse. This feedback will not only strengthen the Eclipse Soundscapes Project, it also provides lessons learned, accessibility tips, and other valuable information for improving participatory science and eclipse education in general.

1. Introduction

In addition to studying how solar eclipses impact life on Earth, the Eclipse Soundscapes Project has one other mission: to make eclipse science as inclusive and accessible as possible. Evidence shows a lack of accessible science engagement opportunities for people with disabilities, specifically those who are blind or low vision (Reich, Price, Rubin, & Steiner, 2010). The result is a lack of STEM participation and positive science identity among people with disabilities. According to a 2010 CAISE Inquiry Group Report, science opportunities that are intentionally designed to be inclusive can benefit everyone and invite populations who are traditionally left out of science participation “to feel competent and empowered as science learners, generate excitement and enthusiasm for science, and be equitable learning experiences that promote learning for all” (Reich, Price, Rubin, & Steiner, 2010). With these goals in mind, the Eclipse Soundscapes Project engages in an iterative development process in which feedback from partners, focus groups, and participants leads to project improvements. This article will review feedback from the 2023 Annular Solar Eclipse and highlight ways to improve our project for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse. We hope these insights and lessons learned can also benefit other eclipse projects ahead of 2024.‌

The Eclipse Soundscapes Project started by overturning the usual assumption that a solar eclipse is a primarily visual phenomenon. Instead, we posited that the environmental changes brought on by an eclipse can be observed with multiple senses.

Our project is based on an early participatory science experiment conducted almost 100 years ago, in which William M. Wheeler and a team of collaborators invited the public to observe how the August 31, 1932 Solar Eclipse affected animal and insect behavior (Wheeler, MacCoy, Griscom, Allen & Coolidge, 1935). Nearly 500 participants responded with sight, sound, and other multisensory observations, demonstrating that solar eclipses can be experienced — and studied — in a multisensory manner.

Two smiling adults wearing sunglasses outdoors hold an AudioMoth recording device, a notepad, and a pen for participation in the Eclipse Soundscapes Project.
Figure 1

Eclipse Soundscapes Project leads Dr. Henry “Trae” Winter (left) and MaryKay Severino (right) with their AudioMoth recording device and observer field notes.

Using modern technology and scientific practices, Eclipse Soundscapes is replicating this study for the twenty-first century, during the October 14, 2023 Annual Solar Eclipse, and the April 8, 2024 Total Solar Eclipse. The general public is invited to participate in one or more of the following roles:

  • Apprentices learn about solar eclipses in a series of free, online lessons

  • Observers use all of their available senses to record written observations of what they see, hear, or feel during the eclipse

  • Data Collectors use an AudioMoth recording device to capture sound data before, during, and after the eclipse

  • Data Analysts analyze the collected soundscapes data after the eclipses (coming in 2024)

All project roles are designed and iterated to be as accessible and inclusive as possible. Our efforts started with increasing accessibility for the blind and low-vision community — a group that has traditionally been left out of eclipse science. However, we have considered and adjusted other aspects of the project to improve accessibility and inclusion for all participants (see our “Accessibility and Inclusion” statement on

To help us better reach communities, we enlisted the help of facilitators including library staff, educators, park staff, subject matter experts, and leaders of the blind and low-vision community. We knew these professionals would be well-positioned to help disseminate project information and materials to the diverse audiences we were hoping to reach.

The challenge of working with so many diverse audiences is that our team could not possibly anticipate each need that arose in the various groups. Fortunately, the annular eclipse allowed us to beta-test the project before the upcoming total solar eclipse of April 8, 2024. As part of the project’s iterative development, we collected feedback from our participants and facilitators to learn what we can improve for 2024.

Groups of people sitting on blankets in a field outdoors look toward the sun during the October 14, 2023 eclipse.
Figure 2

Visitors to Valles Caldera National Preserve experience the annular eclipse on October 14, 2023.

2. National Parks Staff and Naturalists

Parks staff were a natural fit for participation in the Eclipse Soundscapes Project. Their access to properties along the path of annularity allowed for the placement of AudioMoth recorders in unique wildlife habitats while their ability to reach visitors with interpretive exercises helped spread knowledge of the Eclipse Soundscapes observer role.

Dave Kruger, chief of interpretation at Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico, said the Eclipse Soundscapes Project was “a perfect blend of what we were trying to offer our visitors that day.” In addition to placing AudioMoth recorders, the interpretive staff at Valles Caldera passed out 170 Eclipse Soundscapes observer forms, which encouraged visitors to contribute to NASA eclipse science while experiencing the eclipse with all of their senses.

“As part of the Parks Service, we're trying to get people into more experiential learning,” Kruger said. “With this community science project, we could invite people to have an augmented eclipse experience, where they weren't just watching, but they were listening.”

Kruger pointed out that placing more signage and information within participating parks would spread awareness of the Eclipse Soundscapes Project. These efforts to better reach park staff and visitors could have a sizable impact on project participation.

As Kruger said: “I think a lot of people like to help us better understand this place, or in this case, a bigger thing: the dynamics of solar eclipses and how they impact wildlife. I think people enjoy giving back and helping our species learn more about the world.”

Two women sit in folding chairs outdoors with a dog. One is wearing eclipse glasses while the other reads an Eclipse Soundscapes observer form.
Figure 3

Staff at Valles Caldera National Preserve passed out approximately 170 Eclipse Soundscapes observer forms to visitors.

Naturalists outside of the parks also got involved in the Eclipse Soundscapes Project. An outreach presentation to the Texas Master Naturalists program resulted in the participation of around 400 naturalists who collected both audio data and written observations.

“It was a great way to pair our program’s focus on community scientists with research programs and projects bigger than their communities,” said Mary Pearl Meuth, assistant state coordinator for the Texas Master Naturalist program.

Texas Master Naturalists not only learned about the AudioMoth devices, they also discovered how participatory science can contribute to widespread science learning. “My favorite part was the feeling of getting to contribute our little corner of the world to this larger research project,” said Meuth. “As a scientist, we're focused so much on our research projects, our events, our little niche of the environment. But I think you have an obligation if you're in the pathway [of the eclipse], to help other scientists, to share access to projects and data.”

Because Meuth and her team deployed the AudioMoths in a remote area without cell service, she emphasized that offline instructions would be a helpful addition to the AudioMoth kit. If future versions of the kit had written or printed instructions included, naturalists and park staff could more confidently deploy AudioMoths in remote areas.

Meuth also expressed a common desire among many participants: “I sent my micro SD cards off and I want to know what's on them. I want to know that you've received them that they're being listened to. I know that's going to take time and lots of resources, but I want to know what the results are.”

Table 1


  • AudioMoths may be deployed in remote areas without cell service. Eclipse Soundscapes will ensure that instructions are available both online and in an easily downloadable/printable format, such as a PDF.

  • Participants are anxious to hear the results of their AudioMoth recordings and would like to be notified when the project materials they submit are received. Eclipse Soundscapes will publish a webpage where participants can verify that their data has been received and will use social media to provide real time updates to participants.


3. Libraries

The Eclipse Soundscapes Project also partnered with libraries along the path of annularity. Libraries are often pillars of their communities and are well-positioned to reach their local patrons through eclipse programming and educational events. Eclipse Soundscapes developed passive programming materials for libraries and also offered free data collection kits to select applicants.

We attended the American Library Association (ALA) Conference to meet with library professionals, to introduce them to the Eclipse Soundscapes Project, and to discuss the eclipse in general. In the weeks prior to the eclipse, Eclipse Soundscapes spoke at several libraries along the path of annularity in Texas and New Mexico.

A man stands at the front of a crowded library presentation room holding a small AudioMoth recording device.
Figure 4

The Eclipse Soundscapes team spoke at several libraries on the path of annularity in the days before the annular eclipse. Here, Eclipse Soundscapes principal investigator Dr. Henry “Trae” Winter demonstrates the AudioMoth recording device for a group at the Wimberly Village Library in Texas.

A partnership with NASA @ My Library and their eclipse kits program helped Eclipse Soundscapes identify and reach ~50 libraries that wished to receive data collector kits and training. “Honestly, we weren’t sure what the interest would be, but we’ve heard so many people at the libraries stating ‘I’m helping NASA’ or ‘I can’t believe real scientists are going to use what we’re getting!’” said Anne Holland, principal investigator of NASA @ My Library. “I think our goal for learners to feel more connected to NASA is definitely enhanced by this collaboration.”

Respondents to a post-eclipse survey said the project was successful in reaching library patrons. “Our patrons loved learning about the tool we used to collect data,” said one participant. “I appreciated that it provided an additional educational aspect to the eclipse program.”

“I was especially happy that it was easily accessible,” said another survey participant. “It was helpful that patrons who didn’t have an [AudioMoth] device were able to participate with paper observation forms. This made it possible for all of our library patrons to participate.”

Vivienne Byrd, STEM librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library, connected with Eclipse Soundscapes at the ALA conference. “It's a very interesting project because you're not just asking the public to look at the Sun. There are all these other ways to use your senses to learn about everything that's going on during the eclipse,” she said. “I thought that Eclipse Soundscapes would be perfect additional programming that can be attached to the eclipse programs that we're trying to host here.”

Unfortunately for LA public libraries, timing was an issue when it came to receiving the kits, training library staff internally, and presenting the Eclipse Soundscapes Project to library patrons. LA public libraries did not have adequate time to prepare and participate in the project. Byrd stated that LA libraries often plan their programming up to ten weeks ahead of time, so instead of presenting the project to patrons, library staff participated on their own at home. They are considering how the AudioMoths could be offered as a circulating kit for other participatory science uses.

Table 2


  • Communicate with partner organizations to establish a clear timeline for training, testing, and implementing the Eclipse Soundscapes Project.


  • Provide all materials upfront so participants can review and learn at their own pace.

  • Consider how the participation process can be split into multiple roles to create participation opportunities that accommodate different time commitments and levels of access to equipment.

4. Members of the Blind and Low Vision Community

As part of our efforts to make the Eclipse Soundscapes Project accessible to people who are blind or low vision, Eclipse Soundscapes collaborated with the National Federation of the Blind to gather advice and conduct focus groups. Additionally, the Eclipse Soundscapes Project reached out to all National Federation of the Blind chapters in the October 14, 2023 path of annularity to directly invite members to participate.

One of these chapters was the Salt Lake Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in Utah. President Ken Duke helped coordinate the involvement of members while Karl Smith participated as a data collector.

“I’m a science geek,” Duke said. “I have always been interested in astronomical things. Like most children, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. But with the sight limitations that I had, I couldn't pursue that dream.” Duke applied for several AudioMoth recorders for his chapter and organized a Q&A session with Eclipse Soundscapes principal investigator Dr. Henry “Trae” Winter.

“I just thought it was interesting to get a feel for what happens during an eclipse, other than the visual thing,” said Smith. “I was very impressed with the way the little audio device worked, and I was able to do basically everything that needed to be done accessibly.”

Small rubber bump dots are placed near the key ports and switches of a small, square shaped AudioMoth recording device.
Figure 5

As part of the Eclipse Soundscapes commitment to accessibility and inclusion, project materials were adapted to be accessible to the blind and low vision community. Here, an AudioMoth recorder is outfitted with “bump dots” so users can tactily identify switches and ports.

Smith said the only inaccessible part of the project was a known flaw where participants could only set the AudioMoth clock by checking a set of lights. Smith consulted his partner to ensure the clock was set correctly, but the Eclipse Soundscapes team recommends manually reporting the recording start time as a failsafe.

Smith also reported that some of the braille labels on the equipment felt “rough” — possibly a side effect of the super glue used to attach the label to the box.

But overall, Smith said, “It was a fun project. I just really enjoyed participating. Who thinks of blind people in astronomy? Not too many. I’m glad you guys are doing this to try to bring this particular field of interest to blind people. And I hope that you keep us, the blind, generally involved in whatever you're doing, because there was a lot of interest there, I think, throughout the country.”

Table 3


  • Some participants experienced an issue with setting their AudioMoth clock. For some, it was an accessibility issue, for others, it was the result of an unexpected firmware conflict. Because the accessibility conflict was known ahead of time, Eclipse Soundscapes implemented additional steps to the data collection protocol. All participants were asked to manually report their recording start time in addition to setting the AudioMoth device’s time clock. This also supported people who encountered the unexpected firmware issue. All future kits will be tested for firmware conflict before shipment.


  • Review all aspects of participation for accessibility, then put protocols in place at accessibility weak points. Making projects more accessible can support even more participants than originally intended.

5. Other Eclipse Science Projects

The Eclipse Soundscapes Project collaborated with several other eclipse-related participatory science projects. This allowed our small teams to combine efforts and resources, amplify reach, and provide audiences with multiple ways to participate in NASA eclipse science. In addition to our partnership with NASA @ My Library, Eclipse Soundscapes partnered with the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project and GLOBE Observer.

GLOBE Observer also takes a multisensory approach to eclipse science, asking participants to collect temperature and cloud data during the eclipse. Eclipse Soundscapes and GLOBE Observer shared project information during webinars and trainings while encouraging mutual participation between audiences.

Holli Kohl, who coordinates the implementation of the GLOBE Observer program, said her audience was curious to learn more about animal and insect soundscapes during the eclipse. “While we didn't have a protocol set up to do that, it was really nice to know that NASA was funding another project that is set up to do that and that we could put them together.”

Conversely, The Eclipse Soundscapes team was curious to learn more about how temperature changes might impact soundscapes. “Partnering helped nail down a variable that would otherwise be difficult to track,” Kohl said. “It's nice to have those two pieces of data together and then to present that out to our volunteer communities, that observing both together is really helpful to the science community and may also be of interest to participants.”

Despite that interest, Kohl said that juggling two participatory science projects on eclipse day turned out to be a challenge. “For people who want to implement GLOBE and Eclipse Soundscapes together, I highly recommend a team of observers,” Kohl said. “What I didn't account for when we were planning was the time you need to just stop and experience the eclipse. It is an awesome experience, and it deserves space.”

A smiling young man holding an AudioMoth recorder above his head against a tree branch on a sunny day.
Figure 6

Yash Patel, a student with the National Eclipse Ballooning Project, affixes an AudioMoth recorder to a tree.

NASA Science Activation peers at the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project (NEPB) also presented a ripe opportunity for data collection since their student teams would already be positioned along the path of annularity.

Suzi Taylor, education lead for the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project, helped organize a virtual presentation where NEPB teams could learn about the Eclipse Soundscapes Project and participatory science in general.

“I just thought it was really cool to be thinking about ‘how do we use all of our senses to experience something that people assume is only visual?’” Taylor said. Taylor and Angela Des Jardins, principal investigator for the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project, encouraged their teams to participate and share the project with family and friends.

Des Jardins said one barrier to participation was that NEPB teams already had busy eclipse-week schedules. The Eclipse Soundscapes data collector role asks participants to deploy the AudioMoth device two days before the eclipse and collect it two days after the eclipse. Teams who planned to be on the path for a shorter period of time wondered whether they could deploy the device for fewer days. After consulting with the science advisory board, Eclipse Soundscapes has established a minimum deployment time of three days: two days before the eclipse and eclipse day. However, five days is the preferred period.

Des Jardins, who is also a member of the Eclipse Soundscapes Science Advisory Board, also reported some confusion on which types of sounds participants should collect. While the Eclipse Soundscapes Project will be specifically analyzing insect sounds, we are also interested in collecting geophonic sounds (produced by the environment) and anthropophonic sounds (produced by humans) to grow the scientific database that we will make freely available for future studies. Therefore, participants are not required to deploy the AudioMoth in an area free of human-generated noise.

Table 4


  • While the desired AudioMoth deployment time is five days, some teams were not in the field for that length of time. After consulting with the science advisory board, Eclipse Soundscapes established a minimum deployment time of three days.

  • Teams conducting other field work had their hands full while trying to experience the eclipse. Involving friends, family, and other community members can both spread eclipse learning and allow everyone ample time to experience the eclipse. The Eclipse Soundscapes team is collaborating with GLOBE Observer to create resources that would support participants in building their own “eclipse science team.” Teams would support multiple NASA eclipse science projects while spreading the workload and fostering team work.


  • Ask people where they are going to experience the eclipse in 2024, not where they are going to see the eclipse. Eclipses are multisensory events that can be experienced via sight, sound, and feel. Using all available senses can lead to a deeper eclipse experience.

6. Educators

The Eclipse Soundscapes Project was not just an opportunity to collect data, it offered a hands-on education experience where participants could learn about solar eclipses. The Eclipse Soundscapes Project developed several educator resources and lesson plans to augment the Eclipse Soundscapes observer role for classroom environments. These lesson plans included differentiated, or leveled, materials that were developed using English as a Second Language (ESL) best practices. Such materials support educators who teach in linguistically diverse classrooms with students at different English language levels.

Eclipse Soundscapes partnered with NASA Science Activation project Infiniscope to pilot test Infiniscope’s eclipse lessons and Eclipse Soundscapes’ companion formal education lessons. Natali Barreto-Baca, a science teacher at Truman Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, coordinated with Eclipse Soundscapes Education Director MaryKay Severino and members of the Infiniscope team via Zoom. She then used the Eclipse Soundscapes observer role curriculum with her seventh and eighth grade students. The students experienced the eclipse with their families at home on Saturday, October 14.

“I have students who have never seen an eclipse. It was very interesting to see how kids who had never had that experience used these tools to learn about it and how it happens,” Barreto-Baca said. “It was very engaging.”

Barreto-Baca also stated that the multisensory component of the project was hugely beneficial. “I have students who are ESL, some of them this is their first year in this country,” she said. “Using the multisensory tools was amazing, because you don’t have to explain in English or in Spanish — they were able to learn on their own.”

Eclipse Soundscapes reached other classrooms in South and Central Texas with the help of NASA SCoPE Subject Matter Expert Lindsay Fuller. Fuller also helped promote the Eclipse Soundscapes Project in Texas parks, but said her work bringing the observer role into classrooms was hugely rewarding.

“One of my contacts called Central and South Texas a STEM desert,” Fuller said. “So the fact that we have these two eclipses and the fact that we get to do this is a way to reach those communities that really don't ever see any kind of STEM materials ever.”

Fuller pointed out that the best way to improve the education component of the project would simply be to get materials to more educators. “That's one way to be effective at making a difference in these STEM deserts,” Fuller said. “Getting these topics into classrooms is a tangible thing that we can do.”

Table 5


  • Educators, learners, and communities living in “STEM deserts” benefit tremendously from connecting with SMEs and facilitators. Eclipse Soundscapes will encourage SMEs and facilitators in these communities to engage in old school phone calls, Zoom meetings, or in-person visits to ensure participants who might be new to this type of STEM experience feel welcomed.


  • According to the National Education Association, most general educators today have at least one English Learner (EL) in their classroom, and many have one EL for every four students (National Education Association, 2015). Educational materials should include differentiated, or multi-level, learning materials using English as a Second Language (ESL) best practices to support educators who teach in linguistically diverse classrooms that include students at various English levels. Informal education projects that create formal education lessons can support educators by collaborating with ESL educators and utilizing WIDA resources when creating lesson plans. (

7. Looking to 2024

The feedback of the park staff, naturalists, library staff, educators, members of the blind and low vision community, and other eclipse science project leaders we interviewed has been invaluable as we consider how to improve this project.

Because eclipses don’t often happen in the same location or country, the eclipses of 2023 and 2024 afford a unique opportunity for eclipse-based participatory science. We get a second chance to run the same project, this time with the valuable input of our communities. In doing so, we invite those communities not only to participate but to help make our project — and science as a whole — an inclusive and iterative experience where the voices of many contribute to an improved outcome.

To learn more or get involved, please visit


Eclipse Soundscapes: Citizen Science Project is supported by NASA award No. 80NSSC21M0008.

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