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Grantee Research Project Results

Grantee Research Project Results

Clemson University’s Vanishing Firefly Project: Using a Mobile Phone App as Educational and Research Tools for Sustainability

EPA Grant Number: SU835496
Title: Clemson University’s Vanishing Firefly Project: Using a Mobile Phone App as Educational and Research Tools for Sustainability
Investigators: Chow, Alex , Chong, Juang-Horng , Cook, Michelle , Pargas, Roy P
Institution: Clemson University
EPA Project Officer: Levinson, Barbara
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013)
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment



Rapid population growth and urban development have altered the rural landscape worldwide, deteriorating our natural and water resources.  Knowledge of, and experience with, the impacts of urbanization are key factors in determining one’s acceptance of sustainable practices.  The objective of the Clemson University’s Vanishing Firefly Project is to promote environmental sustainability and stewardship through the participation of local communities in environmental science research.


The novelty of this citizen scientist project is to integrate mobile phone technology into a field research study.  Participants of the Clemson University’s Vanishing Firefly Project will use our newly developed mobile phone app to record the number and species of fireflies (using the number and pattern of bioluminescence flashings as a proxy) observed at any location.  Fireflies are reliable indicators of environmental health because their abundance is correlated with the availability of healthy habitats.  The data, with the exact locations and time of the observations, will be sent to a server housed at Clemson University and will be used for long-term climate change and environmental sustainability studies.  Maps showing the occurrences of firefly, land use patterns, and environmental quality impairments can be viewed online through the Clemson Community Inventory Resource website.

Expected Results:

This mobile phone app provides an opportunity for citizens to participate in community-based research project.  This unique hands-on experience will educate general public about the value of forest and natural ecosystems and the concept of sustainable development. The same technology platform (i.e. the mobile phone app) developed for assessing firefly abundance also can be used for assessment of other environmental parameters and other physical and biological features, such as abundance of animals or plants, invasive species, and even locating trash in remote areas.

Supplemental Keywords:

Conservation, Environmental Education, Sustainability Monitoring;

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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