Ashland University Environmental Lecture Series to Focus on “In Our Backyard” Theme

Ashland University Environmental Lecture Series to Focus on “In Our Backyard” Theme

10/18/16 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University’s 25th annual Environmental Lecture Series features the theme of “In Our Backyard, Year 2” and will kick off Thursday, Oct. 27, with a presentation by Dr. Lisa Rainsong, professor at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Dr. Rainsong will speak on the topic, "Crickets and Katydids: Research by Ear," at the 7:30 p.m. event in Ronk Lecture Hall of the Schar College of Education. All events in the series are free and open to the public.

Her presentation will focus on the sounds heard in a field, marsh or woodland on a late summer evening or in a goldenrod-filled meadow in early fall – the chorus of insect song in progress. Because these tiny singers are often far more difficult to see than to hear, their songs are the key to determining who is present. There are many more species of crickets and katydids in Ohio than most people realize, yet detailed documentation is sparse and range maps are incomplete.

Species that appear similar (if you can see them at all) will have distinctly different songs. Good ear training skills and audio field recording equipment are essential for this kind of research. Willingness to explore varied (often wet) habitats in the dark is also necessary.

The study of these insects is important for a number of reasons. Crickets and katydids are a significant food sources for many birds, mammals, insects and spiders. Therefore, their abundance and diversity provides information about the quality of the habitat and can also help guide decisions for land management practices. They are also good messengers for conservation. People become engaged through listening and subsequently realize that the concert will not continue if the “singers” and their concert halls are not protected.

Dr. Rainsong will describe how she learned to identify all the crickets and katydids she hears and how she pursues her research on their current ranges. She will share some of her intriguing discoveries and her approach to conservation education through insect song. 

She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition from the Cleveland Institute of Music and is a member of CIM’s music theory faculty. A soprano as well as a teacher and composer, she sings with the professional early music ensemble Quire Cleveland. She also earned a naturalist certificate from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. She now teaches bird song and insect song classes across Ohio and does her own field recording for these programs. In addition, she does field research on crickets and katydids – research work that is done primarily by ear. Her recordings and photos can be found on her blog, Listening in Nature, at

Dr. Patricia Saunders, associate professor of biology and director of the environmental science program, said the goal of the series this year is to continue exploring examples of local natural history and ecology and make connections to issues, questions and plans for the future.

She said “local” is defined as Ashland and Richland counties in particular and north-central Ohio in general. This part of Ohio represents a unique intersection of geological and biological histories, so the landscape and the wildlife that live in this area are quite rich. This year’s environmental lecture series includes aquatic and terrestrial examples that offer different perspectives on what makes our own backyard so special.

The other event scheduled for the fall semester is a Nov. 17 lecture by Dr. Dave FitzSimmons of Fitzsimmons Photography, who will speak on “If You Build It, They Will Come: Vernal Pools, Fauna and a Whole Lot of Fun.”

The Environmental Lecture Series was established at Ashland University after the Environmental Science program was implemented in 1991-92. Now in its 25th year, the lecture series was designed to support the Environmental Science program by allowing students, faculty and members of North Central Ohio communities to interact with leaders in environmental science and policy. Over the years, the lecture series has generated significant campus and community involvement and support.

Current support for the lecture series is provided by a grant from the Lubrizol Foundation, individual donations and additional support from Ashland University. Past series have been supported by AU and grants from the GTE Foundation and the Fran and Warren Rupp Foundation.

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2016, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.