Shutdown: Field season part 3

The government shutdown canceled our field season. A protestant pastor and a group of nuns made our evolutionary research possible.

The famous purring crickets live in Kalaupapa, which is a National Park on the island of Molokai. Kalaupapa is very difficult to access, and we had to set up a sponsor (Dr. Paul Hosten) through the NPS system and permits months in advance. Due to the shutdown, all NPS employees were banned from entering the park, even though many of them live there! Without a sponsor, we could not enter…

Let me tell you a bit more about Kalaupapa. The park was historically a prison for Hawaiians with Hanson’s disease (leprosy). People were exiled there to die beginning in the 1840s. The bacterial disease was cured with the the invention of antibiotics in the mid 1940s, but patients were not allowed to leave until 1969–most chose not to. The National Park Service manages the hundreds of historic properties, ancient ruins, thousands of grave stones, and endangered plants and animals on the islands. So, since all of the NPS staff were exiled from Kalaupapa, the only people there were the patients and some of the people caring for them including nurses and people officiated with religious institutions. There are 13 surviving patients, all of whom were cured of Hanson’s disease (leprosy) in the 40s.

At the last minute, Pastor Richard volunteered to sponsor us and host us. Richard used to work for NPS but is now in Kalaupapa as a pastor, so he wasn’t forced off the island like all of the other employees. We stayed at his church and were able to do all of our research there.  While working for NPS, Richard worked to preserve hundreds of gravestones and many of the historic buildings, including the 1889 Catholic Church where Father Damien was canonized in 2009.



The Catholic Church has had a big presence in Kalaupapa since the 1840s, and there is still an Abbey there where Sister Alicia and Sister Barbara Jean live—our purring crickets live on their front lawn. They were very supportive of our research. There was also a group of nuns and priests who were visiting on a mission trip. They spent hours helping us search the lawn of the Abbey for purring crickets. We learned so much about the history of the island and about the people who live there. We were welcomed and supported by everyone there. It was a very special experience and we are so thankful that the religious community allowed us to complete our evolutionary research.




Kanaloa give us strength: Field season part 2

After Hilo, my group headed to Oahu where we again put in 18-hour nights and faced new challenges including food poisoning, some crazy roosters, and building a new recording set-up on the fly since ours broke in transit. I’m still surprised we were able to get everything finished. Aaron and Jay were so hardworking and capable with amazing attitudes–I was blown away and am very thankful. Team Kanaloa!

Aloha! Field season part 1

The first part of our field season was challenging but successful. The SAU and DU crews met in Hilo to collect data on ancestral Hawaiian field crickets. We worked 18-hour days (I guess I should say nights), I had a cough that kept people awake, and we accidentally stayed at a hippie commune, but we still made time to eat good Hawaiian food like ramen and HOT Hot Malasadas!

So proud of my freshman!

My Intro Bio students wowed everyone (including themselves) when they presented their original research at our poster symposium.


As I’ve mentioned before, I came to St Ambrose because of the Biology Department’s commitment to authentic science. This semester, I guided these freshman through authentic inquiry experiences. Each student developed a question and a hypothesis, used the literature and trial and error to design methods, collected and analyzed data, and finally disseminated their findings–check out the beautiful scientific posters below. I’m so proud of what they accomplished this semester!

Ahhh we did it!

We hit our Kickstarter goal! Thank you SO much everyone who supported our purring cricket research! I’m so excited I’m literally jumping up and down right now. Wow!

We will be sending everyone PURRsonal thank you notes from the field. Until then, thank you so much for making this possible! We are so excited about this research and could not do it without your support.

USA Today made a…

little video about the purring crickets. So cool! (Ignore all the shots of other Orthopterans. It’s guess it’s difficult to find stock videos of Teleogryllus oceanicus 🙂 )

We can’t wait to find out if parasitic flies can hear the purr when we head back to the field in January. Thanks for helping us get there!