Three-dimensional digitisation of insect collections - omnidirectional imaging and photogrammetric surface reconstruction

Brief description

In German natural history museums, more than 50 million prepared / pinned insects are stored – due to the high number alone, these already occupy an important position in natural history collection management. A particularly important part of the insect collections for taxonomic research are the so-called “types” – these are the individuals on whose morphological basis the description and naming of the respective species took place – the “archetypes” of taxonomy, so to speak. The unique types are scattered throughout museums around the world, and physical access to the collections is often difficult for a variety of reasons. Digitizing the insect types as comprehensively as possible is therefore essential for scientific access and preservation of the material.

The primary goal of the project is to develop quality criteria, standards, and visualization technologies for (macro)-photographic object digitization of insects and the resulting virtual 3D models with true-color surface textures using photogrammetry. The different digitization data – on the one hand 2D image data, on the other hand 3D surface models – are to be linked together so that they form a functional and curatorial unit for the first time. The insects will be captured automatically, from all sides, true to perspective and with extended depth of field by means of the “Darmstadt insect scanner” DISC3D, which was developed specifically for this purpose.

The ULB is involved in this project primarily as a development partner for the innovative viewer, which will combine a fully rotatable photogrammetrically reconstructed 3D model with underlying 2D image data from all angles. The viewer is intended to be a reliable and convenient tool for scientific research as well as to provide the general public with good access to the image data. The 3D models can then be used in the viewer as follows:

  • virtual access to a correctly scaled geometry and true color texture of the objects
  • spatial navigation model for access to the high-resolution image data
  • operation of measuring tools on the model and the images

The development is done beyond the concrete application context of DISC3D as universal as possible, and should thus be permanently usable for further linkages of 2D and 3D data, among others for interested parties from the FID BAUdigital and from NFDI consortia, e.g. NFDI4Ing and NFDI4Culture.

Project status

ongoing, 1.8.2022 – 31.7.2025

Cooperation partners

Heethoff, Michael, Technische Universität Darmstadt

Berger, Frederik, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Husemann, Martin, Centrum für Naturkunde, Hamburg

Kostadinov, Ivaylo, Gesellschaft für biologische Daten – GFBio e.V.

Kuhlmann, Michael, Zoologisches Museum der Universität Kiel

Matenaar, Daniela und Wappler, Torsten, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt

Michalik, Peter, Zoologisches Museum der Universität Greifswald

Raupach, Michael, Zoologische Staatssammlung München

Wipfler, Benjamin, Museum Alexander Koenig, Bonn


Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)