The Incubator

Hatching conversations about science

Citizen Science and the American Cockroach

cockroachWe mostly know cockroaches as pests. But the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, is one of the most successful species that have ever lived. Originating during the carboniferous period over 350 million years ago – even before the dinosaurs walked on earth – these bugs have continually adapted to a variety of environmental conditions. Very recently (relative to geologic time scales), the American cockroach has spread from it’s native continent of Africa, hitching a ride on ships traveling all over the world, and is now very commonly found in nearly all major cities.

Because of this expansive natural history and wide-ranging habitat, the American cockroach can be a wealth of information when it comes to genetic diversity. Through DNA Barcoding, which is a genetic technique used to identify a specific species, researchers at The Rockefeller University hope to answer questions about the American cockroach, and unlock secrets of natural selection and evolution. But your help is needed!

High school student researcher eagerly seeks cockroach specimens

In collaboration with the Kronauer Laboratory for Insect Social Evolution and the Program for the Human Environment, a high school student is eagerly seeking (dead) cockroach specimens from any location in or around NYC and from other US cities. We are particularly interested in the large “waterbug” officially known as American cockroach (Periplaneta americana). Specimens will be analyzed by DNA barcoding to look for genetic variation including possible cryptic species.

Any specimen in any condition will be welcomed (squished or broken is OK). Contributors will be acknowledged on our website, unless you wish to remain anonymous. Please include collection date and location such as a street address or building.

Please send any inquiries via email to Mark Stoeckle ( or phone (cell 646 385-3395).

You can mail your contribution to this citizen science project to:

Mark Stoeckle

Program for the Human Environment

The Rockefeller University

1230 York Avenue

New York, NY 10065

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  1. There’s a dead one in the tunnels by Founder’s.

  2. Really interesting, thanks​!​

    I think that you would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across about crowds and citizen science.​ ​

    It’s called “The Theory of Crowd Capital” and you can download it here if you’re interested:

    Really powerful stuff!

  3. You could check from time to time the women’s restroom in DWB 1st floor. It is not rare to see cockroaches there running around.


  4. Check the MOMA they were in the seating area in Main Entrance climbing the pilars and crawling on the floor on Mother’s Day 2013.


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