The Case of Kestrel and the Dragonfly Detectives

The Case of Kestrel and the Dragonfly Detectives

Dragonflies are whimsical creatures with translucent wings and somewhat unknown behavioral patterns, especially related to weather.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is working alongside a team of unconventional detectives and scientists, comprised of students in grades 4-8. This is a citizen science project that examines the role that weather plays in dragonfly flight behaviors.

Head of Citizen Science Christine L. Goforth leads the way on this expedition, carrying on the museum's mission to illuminate nature with research, conservation, and interactive exhibits.

Using Kestrel weather meters, Goforth and her citizen science project team track weather patterns to gain insight into these insects.

Who are the Dragonfly Detectives?

The Dragonfly Detectives is an educational program for North Carolina students in grades 4-8. It's a 6-week program where the students gather for one afternoon each week, or a week of summer camp, and participate in hands-on science lessons.

During the program, the children are introduced to careers in the sciences. It also offers scientific inquiry through real-word events while nurturing students' enthusiasm for sciences and math.

The students are provided with a field guide, dragonfly net, student workbook, and water bottle.

Meanwhile, Goforth heads the research with a Kestrel weather meter in hand.

Tracking the Common Whitetail Dragonfly

The Common Whitetail Dragonfly is popularly spotted in the summer, sporting a chalky white tail and translucent wings with brown markings.

The dragonflies are of interest to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences since the exact weather parameters that impact behavior and flight patterns are largely unknown.

However, what's known is that dragonflies follow weather fronts. They flee when it turns cold and chase the warm fronts, returning in the spring when it becomes warmer.

Weather Influences on Behavior

Despite their interesting and harmless appearance, dragonflies are fierce hunters with an internal body temperature of 110 degrees F. Dragonflies avoid overheating by perching in the shade while some become active at dusk.

On a day-to-day basis, changes in weather can greatly impact how the dragonflies behave. The weather can have an effect on:

  • Time of day for flying
  • Flight activity levels
  • Postures of dragonflies

In terms of the weather conditions that affect Common Whitetail dragonfly behavior, Kestrel tracks the following for further exploration:

  • Temperature - Dragonflies are cold-blooded and cannot control internal body temperature. They use tactics to cool down and warm up, including wing whirling or sticking their abdomen straight into the air. The Kestrel's temperature gauge can help indicate precise temperatures and how the dragonflies are reacting.
  • Relative humidity - Abundance of dragonflies is likely to increase in humid conditions.
  • Wind speed - Dragonflies can fly in the wind, but winds that are too strong will prevent them from flying.
  • Barometric pressure

Kestrel meters can also help predict incoming rain and storms. Dragonflies rarely fly in the rain, and when rain is coming they enact as behavior known as pond abandonment. Studies have shown that dragonflies disappear from bodies of water when rain is coming.

"As the head of citizen science at NC Museum of Natural Sciences, I have a citizen science project I do with kids throughout NC that examines the role that weather plays in dragonfly flight behaviors. We use your weather meters to collect the majority of our data."
-Christine L. Goforth
NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Choose Kestrel Weather Meters for Scientific Research

Kestrel meters are used to conduct research in natural sciences all throughout the globe. Whether you're an amateur who is interested in learning about science or you are a tenured professional, Kestrel can enhance your experience by offering accurate data tracking for countless weather elements.

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