Field Trip

A couple months ago, Mike and I visited Jackie at her job cataloging insects at the Natural History Museum.

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I’m thinking of doing a taxonomy project myself, so I wanted to see how it’s done by professionals… how the bugs are stored, what types of programs they use to digitize the info, what sort of data they track, etc.

These are the notes I took:

NYC Surplus Property – Where I might be able to buy display drawers and cases on the cheap.
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MySQL – A database programming language. Seems pretty hardcore. I want a real database, but not sure I’ve got the patience for learning a computer language. A friend who works in archiving suggested Tumblr and getting some of the functionality of a database with tagging. However, that only allows for searches using one criteria. But maybe I’ll start there.
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Morphological Key – A kind of guide or document that helps you identify & classify a specimen. Need to read more about this.
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Leaf Snap – An app that helps ID plants based on pictures you take of leaves and upload. More about this in a future post.
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The Stray Shopping Carts of North America: A Guide to Field Identification – By Julian Montague. Bought it and love it. More about this in a future post.
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Clustering Algorithm – Need to read more about this.
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Above: It’s hard to see here, but each insect has a tiny QR code which can be scanned and then brings up all the info about that specimen.
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Above: Number of bugs Jackie has digitized.
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Dioramas

I’m impressed by how seamlessly the 3D foreground blends into the 2D backdrop in these life-sized dioramas from the Natural History Museum. Of course it’s even harder to tell them apart as photos — and low quality cell phone photos at that — but it was hard in person too!

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.Also, what is with this twice-reflected mini-landscape in the old wing of the museum? Why do they show it to you through a periscope instead of directly? Whatever the reason, I’m drawn to the window-within-a-window effect. It’s like seeing into another world.