To Map Billions of Cicadas, It Takes Thousands of Citizen Scientists

Article by Linda Poon and Marie Patino: “At the end of May, Dan Mozgai will spend his vacation from his day job chasing cicadas. The bugs won’t be hard to find; in about a week, billions of the beady-eyed crawlers from Brood X will start coming up from their 17-year-long underground, blanketing parts of 15 states in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest with their cacophony of shrill mating calls. 

Mozgai isn’t an entomologist — he does online marketing for DirecTV. But since2007, he’s worked closely with academic researchers to track various broods of periodical cicadas,as part of one of the oldest citizen science efforts in the U.S. 

He’ll be joined by ten of thousands of other volunteers across the Brood X territory who will use the mobile app Cicada Safari, where userscan add geotagged photos and videos onto a live map, as dozens of student researchers behind the scenes verify each submission. Videos will be especially helpful this year, as it provides audio data for the researchers, says Gene Kritsky, an entomologist at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, and the creator behind Cicada Safari. He’s been testing the new app with smaller broods for two years in anticipation for this moment.

Brood X,  is one of the largest, and mostly broadly distributed geographically, of periodical cicadas, which emerge every 13 or 17 years. They’ll stick around for just a few weeks, through June, to mate and lay eggs.

“With the smartphone technology and the GPS location services, it was just a perfect way to do citizen science,” Kritsky says. Some 87,000 people have signed up as of the beginning of May, and they’ve already documented several early risers, especially around Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. — two of the expected hotspot…(More)”.