Natural Science Collections Alliance

Our members are part of an international community of museums, botanical gardens, herbariums, universities and other institutions that house natural science collections and utilize them in research, exhibitions, academic and informal science education, and outreach activities.

Researchers Digitize Ant Specimens in 3D

A team of scientists is trying to capture 3D images of every species of ant in the world.  They are using a new technique that allows the tiny anatomy of ants to be photographed.  The images will be posted online for use by other researchers, students, and the public.

So far, about more than 8,300 species have been photographed.  The images were made of 18,500 specimens in natural history collections.

Dr. Brian Fisher of the California Academy of Sciences is leading the effort.  Dr. Fisher told BBC Nature that they plan on imaging 10,000 specimens a year.  The team of researchers will visit museums around the world and systematically work their way through every box of ant specimens until the entire collection has been photographed.

The photography technique employed by the team takes dozens of pictures of each specimen, with each photograph in a different plane of focus.  The images are then combined into one picture that displays all of the details of the specimen.

“You can zoom in and see fine hairs, the eyes, all of this detail,” Dr Fisher explains. “And all of this, under a microscope, is not in focus.

Learn more about the initiative at

Researchers Digitize Ant Specimens in 3D
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