The Cricket Course 2023

***Applications close on March 1, 2023***

Image Credit: Piotr Naskrecki

We are excited to offer the first ever CRICKET COURSE from July 3-7, 2023, at the Archbold Biological Station in Florida, USA!

Why Ensifera?: Among all animals, insects show unparalleled diversity in hearing and sound production. Of all insects, the orthopteran suborder Ensifera includes more than 15,000 described species of familiar singing insects such as crickets and katydids, 85% of which are known to have specialized tympanal ears located on front tibiae and stridulatory (vibration-producing) apparatus on male tegmina (forewings). It is the most species-rich lineage using acoustic signals as a main mode of communication. Singing ensiferans are found worldwide and show enormous variation in life history and morphology. They have correspondingly diverse forms and mechanisms of hearing and singing. The coevolutionary dynamics of hearing and sound production are thought to have been a core driver of diversification in this lineage. But, not all ensiferans can hear and sing. For example, many wingless cricket species are known to have independently lost tibial ears, and there are nearly 2,000 ensiferan species other than crickets and katydids that do not possess ears and stridulatory tegmina, but instead have a stridulatory file on their abdomen for defensive signaling, or use alternative forms of intraspecific communication such as abdominal drumming and substrate vibration. Therefore, Ensifera is an ideal group to investigate how acoustic communication has evolved.

Rationale for a new course: Although katydids, crickets, and allies represent an excellent model system for ecology, behavior, physiology, bioacoustics, and evolutionary biology, there is currently no platform in North America to provide structured training on these insects. As part of the National Science Foundation grant titled "NSFDEB-NERC: Multidisciplinary approach to bioacoustics: Integrating phylogenomics, biophysics, and functional genomics to unravel the evolution of hearing and singing in katydids, crickets, and allies" (DEB-1937815), we have assembled a team of currently active specialists to create and offer a unique workshop called "THE CRICKET COURSE.” This 5-day workshop is targeted towards students, amateur naturalists, museum scientists, ecologists, and evolutionary biologists in order to provide hands-on training in identification, ecology, behavior, and bioacoustics of these amazing insects. The course will include lectures on taxonomy, phylogeny, biology, bioacoustics, and ecology of Ensifera, instructor-led collecting expeditions taking advantage of the diverse habitats found in Central Florida, exercises on taxonomic identification, specimen preservation, field observation, and sound recording and analysis.

Organizing institutions and sponsors: The Song Laboratory of Insect Systematics and Evolution in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University, National Science Foundation, and Archbold Biological Station

Venue: THE CRICKET COURSE will take place at the Archbold Biological Station (ABS) near Lake Placid, Florida, one of the most renowned biological stations in the world. ABS (5,193 acres) and the Archbold Reserve (3,648 acres) together comprise an 8,840-acre globally-significant preserve, located in the Florida scrub, one of the most distinctive natural habitats in the United States. Of course, it is home to numerous orthopterans, which makes ABS a perfect place to learn about crickets and katydids.

Participant Acceptance Criteria: THE CRICKET COURSE is open to all interested individuals (professionals, motivated amateurs, such as citizen/community scientists, undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and professors). Priority is given to applicants currently researching crickets, katydids, or other orthopterans and to those biologists for whom the course will have a significant impact on their research and/or teaching. An entomological background is not required. We aim to include students with interests and experiences in biology, including systematics, evolution, ecology, bioacoustics, and conservation. We also aim to enhance diverse perspectives through this event and highly encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups to apply. THE CRICKET COURSE is presented in English and is limited to 15 participants.

Cost: Course fees are estimated at $800 (USD). The fees cover meals, lodging, station fees, and local transportation for field trips. Participants are responsible for their own transportation costs between home and Ft. Myers Airport (RSW) from where we will take them to ABS, or between home and ABS by car.

Student Scholarships/Tuition Waivers: For accepted students traveling from the U.S. and Canada who demonstrate financial need, a limited number of partial tuition waivers are available for up to $500 (USD).

Learning outcome: THE CRICKET COURSE has the following learning outcomes. Upon completing the course successfully, students will be able to:

  • Correctly describe phylogenetic relationships among major orthopteran lineages and morphological traits defining each group

  • Correctly identify ensiferan genera and selected species of North America using diagnostic characters and identification keys

  • Properly collect, preserve, and curate orthopteran insects using various methods

  • Record songs using standard equipment and analyze them using bioacoustics software

  • Comfortably use online tools for Orthoptera identification, natural history, and scientific communication

  • Place the study of Ensifera into broader research fields such as animal behavior, neuroethology, or speciation

  • Apply theories and practices in bioacoustics research to ensiferan insects of choice

To apply: Please use this Google Form. The deadline for application is March 31, 2023.

2023 Instructors:

Dr. Hojun Song

Professor, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University


Expertise: Phylogeny and taxonomy of Orthoptera, locust biology, molecular systematics, phenotypic plasticity


Brandon Woo

PhD Student, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University


Expertise: Orthoptera of North America, Tridactylidae systematics, Florida scrub ecology, insect macrophotography, iNaturalist

Website: iNaturalist

Dr. Fernando Montealegre-Z

Professor, School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, U.K.


Expertise: Biomechanics and physiology of structures specialized for the reception and production of ultrasound sound, evolution of acoustic communication, Orthopteran bioacoustics


Charlie Woodrow

PhD Student, School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, U.K.


Expertise: Biomechanics and physiology of structures specialized for the reception and production of ultrasound sound


Dr. Nathan Bailey

Professor, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, U.K.


Expertise: Evolution, developmental genomics, phenotypic plasticity, bioacoustics, Teleogryllus oceanicus system