Normally when Micah walks through the gates at Riverbanks Zoo, it’s for the next edition of Wild Encounters. But coming up is the solar eclipse and it’s giving a very unique opportunity to local scientists to study animal behavior during an eclipse, which has never really been studied before.
“And the truth is there is almost no science that has been done, really, really good peer-reviewed science. There’s more scientific publication about sasquatch, so the existence of bigfoot, than there is about animal behavior during an eclipse,” says University of South Carolina Scientist Adam Hartstone-Rose.
So Hartstone-Rose and his team have a plan to change that.
“My students and I, along with the zookeepers and some other well-trained zoo volunteers, are going to be stationed throughout the zoo observing specific groups of animals and trying to record the behavior before, the behavior during and the behavior after,” says Hartstone-Rose.
So what are scientists expecting from the animals?
“The scientific method essentially requires us to make hypotheses beforehand, and so, you know, I’ve thrown out there, like, I don’t particularly think that we’re going to see extraordinary things, but who knows, maybe giraffes will do backflips during an eclipse. No one really knows,” says Hartstone-Rose.
Because this study is the first of its kind, Hartstone-Rose says he does feels the scientific weight of it but he’s also looking forward to the potential impact it could make on the study of animals.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity because the Riverbanks Zoo has this fantastic collection of animals,” says Harstone-Rose. “We’ve got the biggest lizard, the biggest tortoises. We’ve got these grizzly bears that everybody loves. We’ve got elephants and giraffes and animals that people are really curious to see what kind of behavior we might expect out of these species and we have that opportunity to try to figure that out.”