It is an animal the size of a pinky finger. It hops wildly, blindly out of the dark. And still, somehow, it has moved unstudied basement to basement across North America, the yeti in our midst. It is the Asian Camel Cricket (Diestrammena asynamora).
In previous work with citizens, we very accidentally discovered that this cricket had spread much more than we (or perhaps anyone) suspected. It appears to have spread primarily indoors, though it’s also being found outdoors as it hops away from houses to find, well, we aren’t sure. Love? Food? Fulfillment?
We now need your help, but we are soliciting your help in a bit of an unusual way. So far, we have made all of our discoveries about this cricket in collaboration with the help of hundreds of folks willing to investigate their own homes, those folks and one very diligent high school student. As a result of this work, we have written up the beginnings of a paper, which you can find online, here (note, it is very unusual to put a paper online before it is finished. This leaves us feeling a bit naked, but we wanted you to be able to be part of the whole process of this discovery). To finish this paper, we now need more data not just on where there are camel crickets (which our participants have already helped to show us is essentially everywhere — see map below); we need pictures of camel crickets to discern which of these crickets are the native species once restricted to forests and caves but now cohabitating (rather peacefully in some houses, less so in others) or the species from Asia.
We need, in other words, your pictures of what lives in your basement and as we get them we will, in real time, update our paper as a reflection of what you show us. You can help us find the giant cricket, help us know it. You, the banker. You, the kid. You, the scientist who just doesn’t get enough science at work.
But here is the cool trick. As the data come in, we will put the data all online so that anyone who is interested can evaluate what seems to be limiting the distribution of camel crickets in general or the introduced camel cricket in particular. Is it climate? Is it forest? Is it just time? If you find an elegant way of considering this question (or even of depicting other aspects of what we are finding), you have the potential to be an author on our paper on camel crickets. In each step of finishing our paper on these crickets, the paper itself and the process of discovery will be fully public (and this includes the process of review of this work by our peers).
And so when we say that “citizen scientists document the spread of giant cricket,” we mean to say that they have. But we also mean that this process is ongoing, that you can help us to understand this animal. All it takes is a phone with a camera on it (or a camera you can connect to your computer) and the wherewithal to go boldly into your basement or crawlspace or even under your bed. You could be the first person to record this cricket for your town, city or even state.
So go now and check. We will wait.
Visit our new Camel Cricket Census project page — http://crickets.yourwildlife.org — to learn more and upload your photos today!