Southeastern Section - 63rd Annual Meeting (10–11 April 2014)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:50 AM


BYRD, Christina J., Department of Paleontology, Virginia Museum of Natural History, 21 Starling Avenue, Martinsville, VA 24112, DOOLEY Jr, Alton C., Virginia Museum of Natural History, 21 Starling Avenue, Martinsville, VA 24112 and TIMM, Sarah, Research and Collections, Virginia Museum of Natural History, 21 Starling Avenue, Martinsville, VA 24112,

Fossil insects provide a deep-time record of ecological and evolutionary changes that occurred. Because insects play an essential role in human society (e.g. pests and vectors of disease), the fossil record can be used together with modern climate models and biodiversity studies in order to predict what will happen to populations as the climate and environments continue to change. While having fossil insect collections stored in museums is beneficial, accessing those collections can be costly and in some cases, timely. In the case of the Triassic insects from the Solite Quarry in Virginia, the insects range in length from 2 mm to 8 mm. The small size and mode of preservation of these insects makes them difficult to view for study. Therefore, the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH), in collaboration with six other institutions, are working to digitize the primary fossil insect repositories in the U.S. and make them more accessible to researchers, educators, and the general public.

Digitization of the Solite insects involves combining a variety of hardware and software. The primary hardware includes a Canon DSLR camera tethered to a computer, a macro lens, and a StackShot motor and rail mounted on a copy stand. For the best results, the specimen is doused with alcohol to increase the contrast against the rock and illuminated with a ring light prior to image capture. Canon EOS Utility software is used to remotely adjust the camera settings and capture the image, while the StackShot motor is used for fine-focus adjustments. After capturing the image, Apple Automator software is used to expedite multiple steps related to the import and export of images into and out of Aperture, our chosen image editor and library. The images are then imported into our database, the Electronic Geological Management System (EGEMS), and the associated specimen information is added.

In order to make this collection available to downstream users (e.g. teachers, students, and researchers), we are working on making the database available online through the VMNH website. In addition, we are planning to incorporate the digitized specimens to supplement the current exhibit on the Solite Quarry and the various fossils that are found there. We are also considering a phone application as both an aid to the exhibit as well as a stand-alone digital exhibit.