About this site

History of this site

Each spring of a periodical cicada emergence year, the telephone in the Insect Division of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology would start ringing, and more often than not, a graduate student would be sent to talk to the caller. Around 1995, two then-graduate students, John Cooley and David Marshall, created this site to run on the newly released web browser “Netscape Navigator.” The site had various names (e.g., “Cicadas of Michigan”) and has moved domains several times, but the core information on this site has been on the web since 1995, making it one of the oldest internet sites in existence. For perspective, this site is several years older than Wikipedia.

The site was moved in the early 2000’s to the University of Connecticut Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology’s server and combined with Chris Simon’s Periodical Cicada Database to create a searchable site with information about periodical cicadas.  The website was called “Cicada Central” at that time and it also included information about worldwide cicadas.

In 2007, the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration provided funding for constructing GPS dataloggers, which we used to build out the database underlying the maps on this site. You can learn more about that aspect of the project here.

The site was moved to a commercial server in the late 2000’s to allow it to collect data from web reports.  The site was named “www.magicicada.org” at that time.  Eventually, changes in the way websites are programmed and function caused the database and mapping functions to stop working correctly.

By 2017, the site was moved back to a UCONN domain and renamed “cicadas.uconn.edu.”  Much of the material on this site dates back to the original site at the University of Michigan; however, the mapping portions of the site were rewritten and are served by ArcGIS.

Many of the sounds on this site, especially of individual species calls, were recorded in the 1960s by Richard D. Alexander and Tom Moore, both Curators in the Insect Division of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, on Nagra reel-to-reel tape recorders. These recordings were digitized in the 1990s by David Marshall, at that time one of Alexander’s graduate students. The original recordings are deposited in the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics at The Ohio State University (Donald Borror was Richard D. Alexander’s PhD Advisor).

Although “zombie” versions of this site exist at all of its previous addresses, www.cicadas.uconn.edu is the only version that is actively maintained.