CONSERVATION & EDUCATION
In 2011, some campers saw fireflies flashing in unison in the Allegheny National Forest. A research group - the Firefly International Research & Education team (FIRE Team)- heard about the sightings and, in a 2012 visit, confirmed the presence of over 15 species, including synchronous fireflies. In 2013, a handful of local residents, environmental activists and business people formed the PA Firefly Festival to celebrate fireflies. It’s an excellent way to explore a new outdoor experience: go outdoors at night & observe the wonder of fireflies!
Daytime hours at the festival are filled with music and food, vendors and exhibits, and plenty of hands-on activities for the whole family. It didn’t take long for PAFF to appreciate the uniqueness of this opportunity. People flocked to recapture the nostalgia of watching fireflies on warm summer nights.
We found endless inspiration in fireflies: here was a way to teach about the environment, forest ecology, conservation and more. Interest in the annual festival grew fast and was not without its growing pains.
Applying for a grant from the Huplits Wildlife Fund turned out to be the single most influential & formative move PAFF could have chosen. It forced us to define our mission and then rise to the five challenges we articulated.
Develop curricular materials and educational displays about fireflies and their habitat
Attract more scientists to the festival, increasing the quality of the educational programs
Bring firefly habitat protection and awareness to local, state and federal agencies
Enlist local residents in long-term monitoring of firefly populations
Create a summer internship, recruiting from nearby institutions of higher education