Vanishing Firefly Project

Firefly logo

View the 2013 results at this link -

Project Overview

The objective of the Clemson Vanishing Firefly Project is to promote environmental sustainability and stewardship through the participation of local communities in environmental science research.

The Clemson Vanishing Firefly Project offers a mobile app that everyone - from students to seniors - can use to measure firefly populations in their neighborhoods. 

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Fireflies… Are they disappearing? And if so, why? Could the rapid growth of our cities be destroying their natural habitats? Could our pollution be destroying the natural resources they need to survive? Join us as we seek to find the answers…

Educating the Citizen Scientist

Fireflies tell us about environmental health

Our goal is to teach citizens about how their actions impact the environment. A high number of fireflies indicates healthy habitats and unpolluted soil and water environments (Jusoh et al., 2010).

Urbanization- brings an increased amount of pollution

Pollution- comes from trash, pet waste, pesticides and fertilizers as well as light. Strong, bright artificial light can outshine firefly flashes and interfere with their mating behavior (Viviani et al.2010).


Education- integrates mobile technology and ecology to promote environmental education.

Entertainment- counting fireflies is Green Entertainment Time!


Data Collection and Utilization- As the app continues to be improved, data to evaluate environmental quality, land exploitation, and plant health status can be collected by a larger number of citizens over a larger area of interest.


Sustainability - Understanding the relationship between humans, wildlife, and environmental quality leads to more sustainable land use and development practices.

Light Pollution Data - guidance for better energy deployment.

Data on effects of urbanization- potential reduction of herbicide and pesticide usage 

Citizens Collaborate with Scientists

Crowdsourcing to collect data from all app users

The data, with the exact locations and times of the observations will be used for long-term climate change and sustainability studies. Maps showing the occurrences of fireflies, land use patterns, and environmental quality impairments can be viewed though Clemson’s Firefly Maps.

Picture of online map

Last year researchers organized a June 1 statewide firefly survey. People chose their locations and conducted a one-minute survey between 8:15 and 10:15 p.m. They reported observations using the Apple app Firefly Flash Counter or the project web page. (See map at There were over 1100 observations published in the results. Next year, say researchers, the project looks to add an Android smartphone app, expand the survey to others states, maybe other countries, and recruit more citizen-scientists.

Principal Investigators
Dr. Alex Chow - - Department of Biosystems Engineering, and Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Clemson University
Dr. Juang-Horng Chong - - Department of Entomology, Soils, and Plant Sciences, Clemson University