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Cicada search takes to the national stage

Published: 
6 September 2013
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Researchers from Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) will be showcasing their Cicada Hunt app on the national stage next week.

The team are taking their smartphone app to the British Science Festival, in Newcastle, and the BBC Summer of Wildlife event, at Sutton Park, Birmingham.

The app was developed by ECS researchers was released in June to help search for the rare New Forest cicada (Cicadetta montana) that is the only cicada native to the UK.

Each year during May to July it sings with a very characteristic high-pitched song that is at the limits of human hearing and is particularly difficult for most adults to hear. Sightings of cicada in the New Forest date back to 1812, but it hasn’t been spotted or heard from in more than a decade.

Visitors to the new Forest can download the app that turns their mobile into a portable cicada detector to scour the area in search of the elusive creatures. If a potential cicada song is detected the app prompts the user to upload the recording so that it can be analysed in more detail.

New Forest cicada

Professor Alex Rogers, of the Agents, interaction and Complexity Research Group, leads the project. He said: “We will be demonstrating our app to visitors to these two prestigious shows.

“Since June we have had more than 1,500 downloads of the app and about 4,000 reports from the New Forest. Unfortunately we didn’t detect any cicadas. The cicada season has finished now but there's a good chance that the warm weather this year will make next year an even better opportunity to search.

“We think it is quite likely that colonies of the cicada remain undiscovered among the less visited parts of the forest. We’re hoping that the millions of visitors to the New Forest can help us discover any of these colonies.”

ECS PhD student Davide Zilli who developed the app added: “The cicada likes sunny south-facing clearings and will only sing on a warm day when there is little wind. We will encourage people to use the app when the conditions are best. We are also using the reports from the app to compile a map of the area that have already been searched in order to focus the efforts of the professional entomologists who are also looking for the cicada.”

To find out more about the cicada project and app visit www.newforestcicada.info

Find out more about the British Science Festival

Find out more about the BBC Summer of Wildlife

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