Synoptic Insect Collection

Project Overview

Carnegie Museum of Natural History ecologists and entomologists currently lead several regional freshwater stream monitoring programs for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They also help watershed and conservancy groups in their efforts to establish reliable baseline data on stream conditions for water quality monitoring and management activities.  Our Synoptic Insect Collection draws on networked gigapixel image technology to unlock the expertise and reference collections at Powdermill Nature Reserve—the Museum’s offsite research station—to better support regionally focused environmental biomonitoring research with citizen scientist volunteers, and insect identification activities with student groups and museum visitors.

In this demonstration project we are exploring the affordances of a multiscalar image platform to enhance observational practices in taxonomic identification of aquatic macro-invertebrates, or freshwater stream insects. To obtain high quality gigapixel images of benthic macroinvertebrate specimens, we are working the GigaMacro rig designed by Gene Cooper of Four Chambers Studios that automates image acquisition and focus stacking operations.

Design Research Process

Kick-off Meeting

Our first project team meeting took place at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The meetings goals were simple—to bring collaborators up to date on project work, and talk about the goals and next steps for the digital teaching collection tool we are going to create. Read more »

 Stakeholder Codesign Session: Powdermill Nature Reserve

To better understand the features, organization and system requirements for digital teaching collection we used a codesign activity to help build a shared understanding of the tool. We also learned about stream ecology related education and outreach programing . Read more »

Expert Interview: Joe Stavish

After having completed a few interviews with expert users, we wanted to go back and understand the novice student perspective more throughly. Joe was able to give us more details about the challenges that students face, how our tool could be used effectively in the classroom, and what features would be valuable for him to have as an educator. Read more »

Additional Interviews

We completed additional brief interviews with conservancy and education groups in south western Pensylvania to gain a more complete understanding of the work being done and to make connections with possible user testing groups. Read more »

Bug & Card Sort Study

On Sunday afternoon we packed up some bugs and flashcards and headed to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to see how novice users observe and sort insects. Overall, we think the study was a success, we learned a lot about how novice users, especially children observe insects and what characteristics they are likely to notice first. Read more »

Survey of educational tools

Looking at a wide variety of tools helped us understand the level of detail necessary for our tool. It helped us understand how different publishers organize information, and what features may be particularly useful to users. Read more »