April 8 is the Total Solar Eclipse

April 8 is the Total Solar Eclipse

On April 8, much of North America will witness another incredible phenomenon known as a total solar eclipse slated to pass over Mexico, the United States and Canada. Although the path of totality (where viewers can see the Moon fully block the Sun) won’t be as visible to the Jessup campus as the 2017 eclipse, the 2024 eclipse path passes over more cities and densely populated areas than the 2017 path. As a result, more people will see totality. An estimated 31.6 million people live in the path of totality this year compared to 12 million in 2017. In addition, 150 million people live within 200 miles of the path of totality. 

In 2017, campus was abuzz during that August morning shortly after the start of the academic year, around 10:17 a.m. Students gathered in the Middlestadt Courtyard near the top of the ramp where Jessup’s science department featured a viewing station complete with eclipse glasses, pinhole cameras, a telescope projection, and a live feed of the big event from NASA.  

Unlike the last eclipse, Jessup’s Institute for Biodiversity and the Environment’s Executive Director, Dr. Michael McGrann won’t be on campus to experience the memorable event. Instead, he’ll be guiding students on a 15-week research project along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), starting near the Mexican border in Southern California. The overall goal is to collect data concerning the population trends of hundreds of vertebrate species while hiking the trail. Students have been trained to assess vegetation, identify plants and animals and follow scientific protocols while participating in an actual, on-going scientific study alongside faculty and other researchers. 

McGrann has done extensive work along the PCT, particularly among numerous avian species.  “During an eclipse, it’s not unusual for birds to become confused and think it’s nighttime,” McGrann said. “Songbirds have been known to retreat to their usual resting places, settling down for the night. As the eclipse concludes, birds perceive it as the break of day, potentially reacting with a morning chorus.” McGrann adds that the eclipse doesn’t interfere with the birds’ internal timing in a way that would impact migration for example. 

To learn more about Jessup’s Institute for Biodiversity and the Environment, visit: https://jessup.edu/academics/schools-institutes/institute-for-biodiversity/