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Cricket Expeditions Crawling All Over New York City Saturday Night
Released: 9/11/2009 11:38:49 AM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Kristin Elise Phillips, Am. Museum of Natural History
Phone: 646-400-4287

Catherine Puckett 1-click interview
Phone: 352-275-2639

At the crack of dusk in New York City Saturday night, expeditioneers will set off  on foot, bikes, and in boats to aurally search for crickets. They will be armed with cell phones, high-speed internet connections for blogging, art supplies, and compasses.

These expeditioneers will be listening for the calls of New York City’s other nightlife  – crickets and katydids – and recording them on cell phones.  

Why? For increased knowledge about this little-known group, for fun, and for seeing if this citizen-science process can work all across the United States, say the Team Cricket sponsors, including the American Museum of Natural History, U.S. Geological Survey, Appalachian Mountain Club’s New York – North Jersey Young Members, New York Entomological Society, and Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery and Reading Room.

 “We seem to only hear about the bad bugs that live in the city – the flies, roaches, mosquitoes, and bedbugs, most of which we brought over with us from other parts of the world, said Sam Droege, a researcher, Team Cricket member, and a self-described ‘bughead’ at the U.S. Geological Survey. “Yet, even in downtown Manhattan we have the same crickets and katydids that sang to Verrazano 500 years ago singing from the plane trees now arching over the avenues.”

Scientists are very interested in learning about the status of crickets and katydids, not just in New York City, but elsewhere across the United States,” added Droege. “One thing we want to be able to do is use the New York City Cricket Crawl as a survey model for use by other groups across the United States,” said Droege. “Crickets and katydids are the processors of the leafy green environment – yes, even in New York City. They are not a group that scientists know very much about, but they do deal with plants in a very direct way.”

Liz Johnson, a member of Team Cricket who manages the Metropolitan Biodiversity Program at the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, notes that by having citizens help conduct scientific surveys, a lot more information is gathered than would be possible to do on their own. “We get more data points, better geographic coverage, more ‘ears on the katydids,’ so to speak. Also, it helps create a more informed citizenry, even in an urban area. The message is that there are still new discoveries to be made, right here at home in New York City.”

Expeditions crawling around the city Saturday night have been put together by a single person, a team, or an organization. The team members will listen for the songs of seven target species, each of which has its own unique call, just like birds. Each expedition will phone in its results – either verbally, with a sound clip, a picture or all three – to a blogger who will make blog entries throughout the night, documenting what the expeditions find and what their experiences are in the urban field. All information will be put onto the Cricket Crawl Web site.

Artists on the Gowanus Canal will be in search of artistic inspiration at the same time. “We wanted to bring in the art component to expand the traditional scientific view of crickets and katydids to include the more metaphorical interpretations possible through art and literature,” said Tammy Pittman, head of the Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery in New York City and a Team Cricket member.

The various expeditions are also engaging in friendly competition with each other, hoping, for example, to be the expedition that finds the elusive common true katydid, which has not been documented in New York City for the past 100 years.

There’s the Buffington Expedition (whose patron is the USDA Entomology Lab at the Smithsonian), where “knights in shining armor will seek out unknown species of insects”; the Matteson and Clark Expedition, which, after brief stops to fortify themselves at various coffee houses, will venture deep into the heart of the Bronx Zoo; the Gowanus Expedition, composed of artists who arise “from Brooklyn’s industrial underbelly” and who will sing back to the crickets while aurally searching the Gowanus Canal with the aid of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club.

There is also the Sweet Expedition, full of young crusaders from the Appalachian Mountain Club, who will “be ambling through Brooklyn clad in clean jeans and environmentally appropriate t-shirts” to find the first common true katydid in nearly 100 years. The Jones expedition, made up of those snappily dressed Cub Scouts, claims they “will not be outdone by cry-baby intellectual scientists or 20-somethings” as they traverse the Pelham Manor, young ears pointed treeward (they have the advantage of young ears, after all).

Team Cricket has high hopes for the event. Team members note that Sept. 12 is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage into New York Harbor, and yet there is still much to be learned about the area.

For more information about Cricket Crawl – as well as entertaining blogs by expedition members and facts about the crickets and katydids of New York City – visit the Cricket Crawl Web site.

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