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Ichthyology Department

Research Collections


The Fish Imaging Project began in 2001 and since then over 2800 specimens have been photographed and posted on our searchable online database. The emphasis of this project has been photographing primary type specimens to facilitate examinations by researchers around the world. As of Feb 2013, an estimated 95% of Holotypes, Neotypes and Lectotypes in the collection have been photographed. Over the years, a number of department staff worked on the digital imaging project, including Chris Kenaley, Anne Holmes, and currently Andrew Williston and Karsten Hartel.

Major changes to the imaging project have taken place over the last six years. Equipment upgrades to our cameras, microscopes and computers have tried to keep pace with the explosion of digital imaging technology. Labels accompanying type specimens are now being scanned to preserve supplementary data.

Improvements in the MCZ Digital Imaging Facility have expanded the Fish Department's digital imaging capabilities. Our digital x-ray facility has allowed us to greatly expand our collection of radiographs. A Snycroscopy Auto-Montage system allows us to take images of our smallest specimens with almost unlimited depth of field. Now, the addition of a micro-CT scanner improves our ability to non-destructively image internal anatomy. This growing range of imaging equipment at the MCZ will greatly contribute to the growth of our digital media archives.
The Camera

The Camera

Nikon D5000 with Nikor AF-S 60 mm Micro Lens

cameraThe high resolution and excellent macro capabilities of the D5000 allows the examination of even small specimens from a photograph. Researchers have been able to examine fine structure in a photograph, saving us shipping a valuable or delicate specimen.

The Set-Up

Lighting: We mount the camera on a commercial copy stand (Figure 1A). This offers stability and near hands-free operation. The camera can slide vertically to adjust the working distance easily. Two lamps mounted at a 45 angle (Figure 1B) on either side of the stand. While this lighting alone usually minimizes glare and reflection, a polarizing filter is often used.

wet standThe Wet Box: Many of the specimens we image are delicate and very susceptible to desiccation. To protect the specimens from the very intense heat of the lamps we developed a glass bottomed wet box (Figure 1C, 2). The wet box sits on the base of the copy stand and the specimen sits in fluid in the wet box.

In addition to its protective qualities, the light box allows the specimen to sit in a fluid media whereby delicate structures such as fin ray elements or escae can float freely. The detail and sharpness this method produces is often stunning. The walls of the wet box are made of inch plexi-glass and are joined by acrylic cement. The glass bottom sits in a sealed dado. The legs of the wet box lift the unit 3 inches from the base of the copy stand; elevating the stand leaves the background of the fish out of focus, providing an even backdrop.


scope mountThe Scope Mount: Small specimens between 0-15 mm usually require some magnification beyond a macro lens. In these cases we photograph using a Leica MZ9 dissecting scope fitted with an 8MP Nikon Coolpix 8400. Our camera is also connected via video outputs to a Trinitron monitor. This monitor allows multiple researchers to examine and discuss the specimen under the microscope.

Hardware and Software

The D5000 is directly interfaced with a dedicated desktop computer using Nikon Capture Control Pro 2 software. Capture control allows the user to adjust many of the relevant camera settings and take pictures with just the click of a mouse. Photographs are automatically downloaded through a USB connection. Editing to erase dust particles in the fluid or on the background is done in Adobe Photoshop CS5. Images are archived according to a museum-wide protocol, wherein original, untouched files are retained as raw and DNG files. Edited, publication quality images are saved and archived as .tiffs. Final images (as .jpeg) are linked to specimen records in the museum database.