No, this is not a frat boy pub crawl in cricket costume. On September 11th, the night before NECSS (have your tickets yet?), Discover Life in conjunction with the American Natural History Museum is sponsoring the first New York City Cricket Crawl, “an aural expedition and a celebration of life in the leafy jungles of urban and suburban NYC and surrounding area.” More specifically, these organizations are urging people to wander their neighborhoods, with ears cocked, listening for the burring sounds of crickets and katydids. Under the hum of cars, stereos, screaming kids, droning air conditioners, and laughing hipsters, how many species do you think you can identify in your neighborhood?
The website gives identification information and links to sound recordings of seven prime species, and then invites all amateur entomologists to phone, text, email or tweet their locations and identifications. On the 11th, they will be generating a Google map of the info as it comes in to create a real-time survey of these species. As a sort of homage to naturalism as it was practiced in days of yore, they are also arranging several “Orthopteran Expeditions,” in which a scientist and a blogger team up to hunt crickets. For instance, The Buffington Expedition:
Matt Buffington heads up an expedition along with his trusted blogger Nif (Jennifer Minnick ) Matt’s patron is the USDA Systematic Entomology Lab at the Smithsonian Institution where knights in shining armor seek out unknown species of insects from around the world and bestow upon them Latin names. Blogger Nif has inhabited the land of NYC for many years, where she has learned to speak their languages, and is facile of blog, mapping, and twittering. Together, armed only with cell phones and a high speed Internet connection, they will traverse the Island called Manhattan by bicycle listening for the quiet folk who continue to call and whisper at night from trees and the grasses of that island.
What a fun way to inspire New Yorkers to learn something new about their urban habitat. This activity has science, it has aesthetic appreciation of nature, it has community organization, it even has an element of mystery. At the crux of this “call to ears” (sorry) is a question of whether an originally endemic species, that was thought to have been lost from the NYC area, is in fact currently present. The Common True Katydid used to flourish in a more wooded version of Manhattan, and appears to have been absent since at least the 1920’s. Reports suggest that there these katydids may have returned, or perhaps are still thriving in hold-out populations. The entomologists working on this project hope that the Cricket Crawl with shed further light on these rumors. It is a charming program, and I wish them much success!
William T. Davis…[a naturalist in the 1920’s who first reported the loss of the True Common Katydid from the area] was no trained entomologist, he didn’t go to school to learn these things, he went outside, he used his eyes and ears, he took notes, he made mistakes, he collected specimens, and asked others to help him learn what they were.
Well, what are you waiting for? Do you think that watching the Discover Channel is helping us save the planet? Step outside and make a real contribution and figure out what crickets and katydids are calling in your neighborhood. Sheesh.