Urban Buzz: Citizen Science with Cicadas
Urban Buzz: Citizen Science with Cicadas
About this lesson
At any given moment we’ve got animals living under our feet – some of them for 17 years at a time. An underground universe populated by mysterious creatures, digging… feeding… emerging.
Sometimes their underground homes get paved over, or flooded, or have a bucket of bright green toxic sludge poured on them. Scientists want to learn more about what happens to cicadas when they’re down there for so long – so they need your help. Go out with your students, parents, kids, grandparents, friends, dogs, friend’s dogs and collect some dead bugs and send them to us! (Yes, you heard that right.)
View this the Urban Buzz Project on iNaturalist.
View Urban Buzz on SciStarter.com
How to participate
Protective plastic container to keep the bugs from getting completely smashed by the antics of the United States Postal Service.
Paper towels (for padding the insects on their journey to North Carolina)
Google Maps or some means of getting GPS coordinates from the collection site
Printed habitat guide (Habitat Guide
Thermometer or accurate weather report
Data card(s) – one per insect collected (Urban Buzz Data Card
Mail Cicadas to researchers at UT Chattanooga:
Dept. Biology, Geology and Environmental Science
Attn: Dr. DeAnna Beasley
702 E. 5th St.
215 Holt Hall
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Chattanooga, TN 37403[/fusion_builder_column_inner]
- Cicadas can be individually packaged in ziplock bags or plastic containers.
- Wrap cicada in 1-2 paper towels to protect it during shipping.
- Before shipping, PLEASE pop your collection containers in the freezer for 24 hours.
- Don’t forget to include the data card!
What are cicadas?
Cicadas are large insects from the order Hemiptera famous for all emerging in massive numbers and making a lot of noise in the summer (some might say, “synchronous emergence and loud courtship calls of the males,” but let’s be real – they’re loud and there’s a lot of them.) They’re not locusts, please don’t call them that, it enrages the entomologists.
They’re also famous for their unusual life cycle, most of it spent underground, which can last a couple of years or over a decade, depending on the species. Some cicadas, like those in the North American Magicicada genus, have 13- or 17-year life cycles!
Learn more about their natural history! (by filmmaker Samuel Orr)
What is the project about?
Cicadas are sensitive to changes in their environment, especially temperature and the availability of trees.
As more people populate the planet… we build cities and homes and those come with roads and sidewalks and pollution. Have you ever noticed that the sidewalk is hotter than the grass? The cicadas noticed that, too. These rising temperatures are sometimes called an “urban heat island” – which sounds like a lovely place to visit, right?
Researchers are studying how cicadas are responding to environmental changes associated with urbanization (humans building more buildings and paving more land) by measuring the wonkiness (“abnormalities and asymmetry”) in cicada wings and legs.
About the Research
About the Scientist
Dr. DeAnna Beasley
is an assistant professor in the Biology, Geology and Environmental Science department at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga.
About the SciArt
Students Discover SciArt is created by Buzz Hoot Roar, the amazing team that brings science to life in their graphics-driven science blog.
About the Artist
is an illustrator and writer from North Carolina. She graduated from North Carolina State University with a BFA in Graphic Design, and now writes and illustrates picture books and graphic novels, creates science based illustrations and comics for blogs and magazines, and teaches illustration.
As students collect cicadas, discuss the possible changes in environment that have happened over the course of the last 17 years on the piece of land they’re standing upon.
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
3-LS1-1 From molecules to organisms: Structures and Processes
Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
3-LS4-3 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
MS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
Analyze displays of pictorial data to compare patterns of similarities in the embryological development across multiple species to identify relationships not evident in the fully formed anatomy.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
Gather and synthesize information about the technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms.