Imaging the collection

Granary Weevil

Granary Weevil
Image:Nguyen and colleagues, PLoS One

New technology is being applied to insect museum specimens to provide new tools for taxonomists and students of insects. Visualization of insect features important to their identification have always been a challenge for entomologists. In the past, the best practice was a detailed drawing by a trained artist, a time consuming process. Advances in image capture and analysis have potential to revolutionize how we view insects. A group of Australian scientists* discuss a simple and rapid technique for producing 3D images of insects that can be useful in identification and study of features. Their process acquires stacked images of the specimen from multiple angles encompassing all 360 degrees. Computer software is used to create focused 2 dimensional images of the insect. The 2D images are futher processed to produce a “visual hull” or multiview stereo. The visual hull is generally more successful.

Further advancements are needed to produce a “virtual insect”. Challenges of visual photography include capturing surface roughness, concave surfaces, transparent wings and membranes, and light dependent features such as iridescence. A useful first step will be the development of online keys with 3D images of the key features. This will especially useful for trainings students to use keys and communicating the subtle differences that are necessary to distinguish species that have a close resemblance. Interestingly, they found that mounting insects vertically rather than the traditional pin through the thorax can facilitate image capture. Vertical mountinug is a technique to consider when preserving killed specimens for photography.

*Nguyen CV, Lovell DR, Adcock M, La Salle J (2014) Capturing Natural-Colour 3D Models of Insects for Species Discovery and Diagnostics. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94346

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Art, by jjneal, Taxonomy. Bookmark the permalink.

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