Science by the People: Lisa Rainsong, Citizen Scientist

Science by the People: the 2015 Conservation Symposium at the

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Elsa Johnson

Snowy Tree Cricket
Snowy Tree Cricket

What kind of person jumps into her car after work to drive to Erie, Pennsylvania to listen to and record the nighttime songs of crickets and katydids  ….for fun….!

…whose ‘real’ life work is teaching music and making her own songs…

…and who gets invited to give a talk about her unusual and enchanting hobby at a prestigious institution of the natural sciences…. ?

…Meet Dr. Lisa Rainsong, whose name, vocation, and avocation so serendipitously mix.

Rainsong, who is a resident of Cleveland Heights, a Professor of Music Theory at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a recorder extraordinaire of the songs of crickets and katydids, gave a power-point lecture — punctuated by cricket song – on the results of her cricket recording activity to this year’s symposium audience.


Rainsong’s familiarity with recording equipment allowed her to take recording of multitudinous mixed summer insect sounds and then separate out the individual songs of specific cricket species – even the hard for the human ear to hear katydid species. 

Black-legged MK singing mostly visible nice OHills 8-23-013
Black-legged Meadow Katydid

By doing this she has been able to verify for professional scientists the existence of certain crickets and katydids where they were thought not to exist. It seems to be a mostly northward migration, possibly due to climate change, but in the case of one cricket, Rainsong hypothesizes that the specific species had been there all along. 

Rainsong spoke with clarity, affection, and humor about her extra-curricular passion. For this writer her presentation was the highlight of this year’s symposium.

You may link to Rainsong’s blog  Listening in Nature. The Songs of Insects is a wonderful online field guide for identification.

Four-spotted TC singing at Linda's4 8-18-13
Four-spotted Tree Cricket


Common True Katydid sings from low perch1 ELC 8-21-13
Common True Katydid

4 thoughts on “Science by the People: Lisa Rainsong, Citizen Scientist

  1. So, these are what keep me awake late in the evening, in the woods outside my bedroom window. Very interesting.

  2. This is a totally wonderful post. It’s a gift! The photographs and recordings show the exquisiteness of nature. I love the possibility that I might be able to identify these creatures in the future. Thank you!

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