2017 total solar eclipse: UofSC faculty experts

A total eclipse of the sun will cross the continental United States on Aug. 21 for the first time in almost 100 years. Columbia, South Carolina has been identified as one of the top places to view the remarkable event as it will experience one of the longest periods of total darkness along the East Coast.

Faculty at the University of South Carolina are available to discuss a variety of aspects of this highly anticipated event including astronomy, viewing safety, historical context, meteorological effects, eclipses in myths and popular culture, and travel and tourism impacts.

To coordinate an interview, contact the staff member listed with each expert entry.


Faculty Experts by Subject Area

Astronomy and Physics

Varsha Kulkarni, professor in the physics and astronomy department, is an astrophysicist who is coordinating the department’s 2017 eclipse activities. She can offer insight on the science behind solar eclipses, why they are significant in an astronomical context and why the 2017 total solar eclipse is important to scientists and sky watchers. 

News contact: Mary-Kathryn Craft, craftm@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-576-6195.


Steven Rodney, assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department, is an astrophysicist who has been working with students planning outreach activities for the eclipse event. Rodney can discuss the science behind the eclipse, eye safety before and during totality and offer context on the significance of the event to the general public.

News contact: Mary-Kathryn Craft, craftm@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-576-6195.


David Tedeschi, professor in the physics and astronomy department, is a physicist with more than 20 years of experience. In addition to his research interest in nuclear physics, Tedeschi has conducted numerous presentations and demonstrations about physics for elementary, middle and high school students. A member of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the South Carolina Science Council and the South Carolina Academy of Science, he can offer insight on the science behind eclipses and what an event like the total solar eclipse means for physics and astronomy education. 

News contact: Mary-Kathryn Craft,  craftm@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-576-6195.


Meteorology, Atmospheric Science and the Eclipse

April Hiscox, associate professor of geography, plans to launch a series of weather balloons immediately before, during and after the total solar eclipse to take measurements in the near-surface atmosphere. Part of a data collection survey that includes universities from coast-to-coast, Hiscox and her team are interested in what happens to wind speed and temperature in the atmosphere when the sun is shut off for a few minutes in the middle of the afternoon. Hiscox’s research focus is in boundary layer meteorology, and she serves on the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Board on Atmospheric Biogeosciences and the AMS Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee on Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.

News contact: Mary-Kathryn Craft,  craftm@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-576-6195. 


Medicine and Animal Behavior 

Adam Hartstone-Rose, associate professor of cell biology and anatomy in the USC School of Medicine – Columbia, serves as adjunct scientist at the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens. He and a team of student researchers will study the effects of the eclipse on the zoo’s animal population. The team also will oversee a survey of zoo visitors to record their observations of animal behavior during the eclipse. Hartstone-Rose can discuss how the eclipse may impact animal behavior, as well as the value of the eclipse as a way to encourage the public to engage with science. 

News Contact: Alyssa Yancey, alyssa.yancey@uscmed.sc.edu or 803-216-3302


Eclipse History

The University of South Carolina has an extensive research collection of historical astronomy. The Robert B. Ariail Collection of Historical Astronomy includes nearly 6,000 manuscripts, books, magazines, newspapers and artifacts ranging from the 15th to the 21st centuries, including many materials that detail the history of solar eclipses. Michael C. Weisenburg, a librarian who oversees the collection for the university’s Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, can discuss the collection and the history of eclipses, astronomy and the move from astrology to modern astronomy. He also can discuss the cultural history of eclipses as myth and the portrayal in literature. An exhibit of the eclipse materials will be on display at the university’s Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library from mid-August to mid-November, with a sneak peek available online.

News contact: Peggy Binette, peggy@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-777-7704.


Allison Marsh, associate professor of history, is the director of the university’s Public History Program and teaches a class on science and technology in world history. With research interests in public history as well as the history of technology and tourism, Marsh can address the history of astronomy and cosmology.

News contact: Mary-Kathryn Craft, craftm@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-576-6195.


Eclipses on the Silver Screen

Mark Cooper is the director of the Film and Media Studies program in the College of Arts and Sciences. His research interests include the history of media institutions, and he has published two books on early Hollywood. Cooper teaches courses on film and media history and can address eclipses in films and in the media.

News contact: Mary-Kathryn Craft, craftm@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-576-6195.


Human Movement Patterns and Social Media

Columbia, South Carolina and various cities along the eclipse’s path of totality are expected to draw record numbers of visitors for the historic event.  Zhenlong Li, assistant professor of geography, will analyze billions of geotagged tweets posted by more than 20 million global Twitter users to map their location before, during and after the eclipse. The project’s goal is to pinpoint which cities or states along the path of totality attract the most people and identify the potential collective human movement patterns triggered by the event on a global scale. Li’s research focus is on geospatial big data processing and analytics and high-performance computing with applications to human mobility, disaster management and climate analysis.

News contact: Mary-Kathryn Craft, craftm@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-576-6195. 


Tourism and Potential Economic Impact 

South Carolina is one of 10 states through which the eclipse’s center line of totality will pass on Aug. 21, and NASA has estimated the Palmetto State could expect up to one million visitors for the event. Simon Hudson is an internationally recognized tourism expert who has written books on golf tourism, the international ski industry, sports and adventure tourism and tourism marketing. Director of the Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development in the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, Hudson can answer questions about the total solar eclipse as a tourism draw and potential economic impact of visitors to South Carolina. 

News contact: Allen Wallace, awallace@sc.edu or 803-777-5667.


Eclipses and Education 

Nate Carnes, associate professor in the College of Education, teaches science education and partners with several Midlands public schools to develop and adopt learning experiences to help students understand scientific phenomena that include lunar and solar eclipses. He can offer insight on scientific concepts connected to solar eclipses and education aspects related to their occurrences. 

News contact: Kathryn McPhail, mcphailk@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-777-8841.


Photographing the Eclipse

Denise McGill, associate professor of visual communications in the College of Information and Communications, can offer insight on the special tools and techniques professional photographers will use to capture images of the eclipse. She can discuss the limitations of the average person’s camera phone when photographing such an event and offer tips on how to take meaningful photos during the eclipse.

News contact: Peggy Binette, peggy@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-777-7704.


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