Image of the eclipsed sun


On August 21, a total solar eclipse will sweep across the United States. Columbia, Missouri is in the path of totality and the area of greatest duration.

There are many accounts of solar eclipses that discuss how animals behave strangely. During the 1932 eclipse, scientists in Boston observed that crickets chirped loudly until extreme totality, gnats and mosquitoes swarmed, and other insects acted strangely. An eclipse in 1991 revealed that orb weaver spiders take down their webs when the sun disappears.

There is not a lot of hard science behind any of these observations, so how plants and animals react when the skies turn black is still a mystery.

However, we do know that plants convert energy from the sun’s light into food. Since the light will be blocked during the day from the eclipse, it stands to reason that it might be difficult for some plants to produce food. As a result,
scientists expect that plants will slow down their rates of photosynthesis during the eclipse, even if it doesn’t make a huge difference overall.

But, the MU Drought Team didn’t want to take any chances.

“We wanted to make sure we harvested the plants before the eclipse,” said Shannon King, a graduate student on the grant. “We thought the plants might act strange during the eclipse and we didn’t want anything to skew our results.”

With the plants safely harvested, the MU Drought Team will be watching the eclipse with friends and family – wearing special eclipse glasses to protect their eyes, of course!

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