Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Eclipses Across Texas - A Scientist’s Experience Bringing a NASA Citizen Science Eclipse Project to Local Communities

NASA Eclipse Soundscapes Citizen Science During Annular Eclipse in Texas

Published onMar 07, 2024
Eclipses Across Texas - A Scientist’s Experience Bringing a NASA Citizen Science Eclipse Project to Local Communities


We present a summary of the partnership between Subject Matter Expert Dr. Lindsay Fuller and Eclipse Soundscapes (ES), a nationwide NASA Citizen science project. As a facilitator in central Texas during the annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023, Dr. Fuller connected her local community with the Soundscapes program by sharing the various ways that the general public can participate in eclipse science. These include viewing eclipse tutorials, taking multisensory data, and recording audio data of insects and animals with a device called an AudioMoth.

1. Introduction

The United States experienced an annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023 and will experience a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. The paths of both solar eclipses intersect central Texas. San Antonio is the largest city in the United States that will experience both solar eclipses and is home to the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). At UTSA, we can use these unique phenomena to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to the general public in our community. 

2. Eclipse Soundscapes

NASA’s Science Activation program connects NASA science to learners of all ages and abilities. The Eclipse Soundscapes (ES) project by ARISA Lab aims to provide accessible opportunities to participate in meaningful scientific research by having the general public gather audio data and submit qualitative multisensory observations from their experience during the solar eclipses. 

 The scientific goal of ES is to study the effect that solar eclipses have on insects and animals by recording the sounds of nature during totality/annularity. It is expected that insects, such as crickets and bees, will change their behaviors during solar eclipses and this can be quantified auditorily. Some nocturnal animals might begin their nighttime activities while daytime animals may become confused and cease their activity. For example, Galen et al. (2018) found that bee populations quit flying during totality in the 2017 total solar eclipse. During a total solar eclipse in 1991 in Arizona, researchers noted a cessation of chirps for a population of desert cicadas, possibly due to a lack of radiant energy (Sanborn & Phillips, 1992). Nilsson et al. (2018) found that the 2017 total solar eclipse did not initiate nocturnal behavior in flying animals, but it did suppress diurnal activity. Through the ES project, the general public can take note of these changes and submit that data to the ES team. 

2.1 Connecting Eclipse Soundscapes to Texas

The ES participatory model includes several ways for the general public to take part in eclipse science. One option is to learn more about eclipses in a role termed Apprentice. This role includes asynchronous online training with a certification upon completion. Another way to participate is to document one’s own experience using a multisensory approach, for example, what one feels, hears, or sees. In this Observer role, a person submits a detailed description of their multi-sensory experience and observation location details on the ES website and receives a certificate for submission. The public can also participate as Data Collectors, in which they either purchase or receive a recording device called an AudioMoth and deploy the device in a predetermined location to record the changing sounds of local insects and wildlife (see Figure 2). This device is relatively inexpensive but sensitive enough to detect insect sounds. ES Data Collectors mail a MicroSD card of data to the ARISA Lab and complete an online form with their location information, which includes latitude and longitude. Upon mailing their MicroSD card and submitting this location information via webform, ES Data Collectors also receive a certificate of completion.  

The role of an ES facilitator is to recruit participants, and then coordinate and engage with them in their roles (Apprentice, Observer, or Data Collector). The ES website,, includes resources to support these efforts including slides, handouts, training, and other materials that could benefit an individual in acting as a facilitator. For anyone who is not an eclipse Subject Matter Expert, the online asynchronous Apprentice training offers the opportunity to become well-versed in solar eclipse information in preparation of taking on this role. Additionally, there are accessibility facilitator training resources. The ES team periodically offers facilitator webinars and has made some recordings available of these webinars available on the ES website.   

The ES project also includes educator resources on its website that are uniquely catered to incorporate eclipse science into K-12 education. The public has access to lesson plans and other resources that relate eclipses to classroom learning. These align with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), education standards designed to show K-12 proficiency in science topics. In Texas, this aligns with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). These resources are a great way to engage with educators when discussing eclipses.

3. Outcomes/Discussion from an ES Facilitator Perspective

3.1 Recruiting ES Data Collectors

I initially discussed the ES project with the general public in the course of my standard outreach.

Most individuals were interested in the ES project but did not want to commit themselves as Observers or Data Collectors. Over the course of several months, I found that educators tended to be drawn to the Observer role as a way to connect classroom science education to eclipses (more information is given in Section 4.) I also found that partnering with parks and park-related organizations was a mutually beneficial way to encourage public participation in the ES Data Collection role. Park staff are enthusiastic about the ES connection to wildlife, and park-goers enjoy the aspect of connecting local eclipses to NASA science. Following is a list of participating Texas parks.

1) McAllister Park - an urban park within San Antonio for hikers and bikers. This park is home to several wildlife species, including deer and coyotes. 

2) Enchanted Rock - this park houses a large pink granite dome formation in the Llano uplift and is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. 

3) Old Tunnel State Park - the name refers to an old railroad tunnel that is now home to 3 million Mexican free-tail bats. 

4) South Llano River State Park - this park in the western part of the Hill Country includes the spring-fed Llano River and is home to a sizeable wild turkey population. 

5) Garner State Park - on the southern edge of the Hill Country, the Frio River runs through this park. As one of the larger parks in the path of annularity, I decided to have two AudioMoths placed in different locations at this park.

6) Goose Island State Park - this park is located on the Texas coast near Port Aransas. It encompasses the flora and fauna of the coastal plains. This park already uses AudioMoths, so while they are part of this study, they did not receive a device from the ES project.

We also deployed two devices to Sul Ross State University (SRSU) in Uvalde, TX for their biology program. While this university has several campuses, the Uvalde campus was the only one in annularity, and will also be in totality for the April 8, 2024 solar eclipse. More information about SRSU is given in Section 4. 

 I chose to support the Data Collectors I was working with by doing the majority of the AudioMoth set-up outlined on the ES website. For parks 1-5, I set the clock on the AudioMoths about 9 days in advance, then I delivered the ES Data Collector kits, which include the AudioMoth device, zip ties, waterproof bags, and return envelope for the MicroSD card, about 5-7 days in advance. The delivery took a few days to get to each park.  The parks were then responsible for deployment and data submission. The ES guidelines state that the AudioMoth must record audio data outdoors for 5 days during the week of the eclipse: 2 days before the eclipse, eclipse day, and 2 days after the eclipse. This amount of time is required in order to obtain an audio baseline. The required storage for the MicroSD card to record continuously for those 5 days has been tested extensively by the ES team and the MicroSD requirements are publicly available in the ES Data Collector training on the website. I installed a MicroSD card in each park’s AudioMoth and wrote a printable guide for the Data Collectors based on the ES Data Collector training and instructions on the ES website. With the AudioMoths set to “USB/OFF”, the Data Collectors were instructed to switch the devices to the “Default” setting for the 5 days of recording, and to annotate their recording location’s latitude and longitude and recording start time for submission on the ES website.

3.2 Feedback: McAllister Park

McAllister Park is the first park that I approached for this project. While the park is maintained by the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department, the Friends of McAllister Park is an organization that advises the department on the park’s condition. I approached this organization and was invited to attend one of their monthly meetings where I explained the ES project and goals. In-person direct interactions like this were vital in creating the relationship needed to get people interested in participating in the project. There were several biologists and naturalists in attendance and I found the audience as a whole was enthusiastic. They placed their AudioMoth near the opening of a bee habitat (see Figure 1, Figure 2, and Figure 3). The device was placed there to record sounds of wildlife but no humans were present during the solar eclipse for safety reasons. Hence, we do not have visual data on bee behavior during the solar eclipse.

Image of a large tree with smaller trees around and an AudioMoth zip tied to it
Figure 1

One of our partnering organizations, the Friends of McAllister Park, placed their AudioMoth near a bee habitat during the annular solar eclipse. 

image of a device zip tied to a tree
Figure 2

Up-close image of the Audiomoth device in the tree

image of hole in tree with bees
Figure 3

Up-close image of the nearby bee habitat

4. Introducing ES Observer Curriculum to Educators to Facilitate Family Use

As stated previously, the town of Uvalde, TX is in the paths of both annularity and totality. Through a STEM literacy conference, we partnered with the Uvalde campus of SRSU to ensure that the communities that SRSU serves, including Del Rio and Eagle Pass, have resources to view the solar eclipses and encourage STEM in their schools. Since SRSU has several smaller campuses, the partnership with UTSA was mutually beneficial since we were able to reach multiple communities using the solar eclipse phenomena, and they were able to gain access to our resources.

I presented the ES educator resources, provided on to teachers within these communities and showed them how they could incorporate the ES project into their classrooms. By utilizing the ES companion curriculum within the classroom and then sending home information about the ES Observer role for out-of-school time, families were able to get involved in Eclipse Soundscapes.  We discussed how to include younger children as well as the older ones; the Eclipse Soundscapes Team provides an accessible downloadable/printable field notes handout on the website that people can use to write down their observations before submitting the observations via the Observer survey. For students 12 and under, the teacher (or parent, scout leader, etc) can have their students write their notes on this handout, then support their students in entering the data on the online eclipse submission on the ES website as a data literacy exercise. We discussed how to use the ES-provided lesson plans and educator resources as a tool to incorporate STEM topics related to solar eclipses in the classroom setting. The resources include topics on the Sun and Moon, as well as the behavior of nature during solar eclipses. I presented these resources via Zoom and was available to answer questions. Setting aside time to listen to and answer questions was an important aspect of connecting educators with the project. 

5. Final thoughts

For any other eclipse enthusiasts or STEM Subject Matter Experts wanting to facilitate ES in their communities, my recommendation is to include parks and naturalist organizations for Data Collection and even park visitors for the Observer role. I recommend that facilitators advise educators to use the education resources and encourage their students to participate in the Observer role. Educators and parks staff alike have enjoyed being able to have a tangible project that they can relate to their students and park-goers. For STEM professionals interested in getting local communities involved in participatory science in general, I recommend engaging with local educators and connecting with groups that will share a common interest in the science topic at hand. While online formats offer a broader audience, I find that in-person interactions tend to foster more engagement and lead to a better understanding of the project. When in-person is not possible, virtual interactions can also be effective as long as time is provided for listening, questions, and interactions. 


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

No comments here