A few weeks ago, Michelle Watson was awakened by a deafening, oscillating scream. “What the hell is this sound?” She wanted to know.
She walked out to the courtyard and saw hundreds of insects with eyes wrapped in thick golden shells, emerging from the ground and climbing up the trees.What Watson saw was thousands Brood X Cicadas are part of a group of billions of insects that have been dormant for 17 years and then “screamed” in about three thunderous weeks.
Watson has spent the past 20 years in Las Vegas, but last year moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. She had seen posts on social media about cicadas, which appeared every generation in large areas of the eastern United States, but believed that they were just summer insects that she often heard in her life. “I thought,’What’s the big deal?'” she said.
However, in the face of the onslaught of strange creatures, she suddenly understood what a big thing was-and did what modern people would do: she searched on Google.Within a few minutes, she downloaded Cicada Journey, Cicada tracking app.
Applications such as iNaturalist, PictureThis, and PlantIn have become pandemic mitigators. Many of these applications act as digital resources and allow users to submit photos and videos for scientific research. Their success inspired Gene Kritsky, the creator of Cicada Safari, an entomologist and professor of biology at Mount Saint Joseph, to create his own service as a way to track Brood X.
Kritsky said that crowdsourcing has long been a way of gathering information for events that happen only once in a generation. In 1858, researchers wrote to newspaper editors urging them to let readers write down observations, and postcards were popular in the first half of the 20th century. By the late 1980s, the telephone hotline used by Kritsky was so often flooded with prompts that the tape on his voice mail machine would get stuck. In 2004, during the last appearance of Brood X, he urged people to send observations via email with photos. He received about 1,000.
The Cicada Safari app allows users to track cicada sightings on a map, as well as take photos of the insects they find and submit them to the app. It is creating a wave, with nearly 180,000 downloads as of its release—not bad for software that most people won’t use after the insect’s three-week life cycle.