On line specimen images

Dr. Gerald Stinger Guala stinger at FAIRCHILDGARDEN.ORG
Wed Nov 22 13:22:59 CST 2000

Well, given that we have more than 40,000 images of specimens online, I'm a
bit biased but we have considered your points at length so this may be of
some use.

1. This is definite. We definitely have eliminated several loans because the
images were online. We estimate a 75% reduction in sheets actually mailed
out. Part of this comes because, as a rule, when a loan request comes, we
email the requestor and ask that they look at our database and suggest a
sheet of each species to leave here for our use.  Generally, they do this
and narrow their request dramatically, thus saving much time and money on
both sides.  It is interesting that because many of the specimens
"unrequested" are duplicates of those already mailed from other
institutions, the web enabled institutions are transferring the cost of
getting those specimens to those institutions that are not web-enabled.

2.  I find the type images to be very useful however, resolution varies
wildly across sites. Many are on the order of 1 Mp, a few of our types are
now being delivered at 51 Mp (6400 X 8000)although this isn't public because
Flashpix and MrSid are both being cagey about software pricing and licenses.

The great part of having very high resolution is that you can look at a
large area of an image at 15X magnification so it is much nicer to do it on
a large computer screen than it is on the actual specimen with a hand lens
or dissecting scope. You can also put the pic in photoshop and pic up a
ruler on the photo and measure things much easier and overlay
semi-transparent layers to really compare structures, or you can use it for
morphometric analysis directly.

3.  The equipment to make 4 Mp images is actually fairly cheap - a complete
setup costs less than $1000 and those images take us less than 2 min. per
specimen to generate.

To get into the really high end stuff with a 4x5 back and HMI lights (and a
pro photographer) it is extremely expensive, I agree. For rare types that
you MUST see, it beats a plane ticket though.  It can also be justified in
some instances for repatriation of data and empowerment in unstable areas -
basically a way for good botanical research to continue even in places that
would not have appropriate facilities to guarantee the safety of the types

It is my opinion that the really high resolution images should continue to
made made only for types (which eventually will serve as a high res ID
resource as well) but for comparative work, the <5 Mp image cost has
bottomed out and we should pursue it.

Stinger Guala

Gerald "Stinger" Guala, Ph.D.
Keeper of the Herbarium
Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Tropical Plant Systematics
Fairchild Tropical Garden
11935 Old Cutler Rd.
Miami, FL 33156


-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at USOBI.ORG]On Behalf Of
Margaret R. Bolick
Sent: Wednesday, November 22, 2000 10:00 AM
Subject: On line specimen images

I'd like to get the community's opinions on the utility of specimen
images associated with on line databases.  In particular, I'd like to
know if:

1.  Are there cases in which viewing an on line image would eliminate
the need for borrowing the material?  Are the resolution and
magnification of current images on line adequate?
2.  How useful are images of types?  Is the resolution of the images
provided by sites that currently offer photos of type specimens
adequate?  Is the ability to zoom in on parts critical for
identification (such as the floral parts in angiosperms) needed?
3.  The equipment to produce high resolution specimen images is
relatively expensive and the process, when it includes multiple views
such as enlargements of parts critical for identification, is time
consuming.  As a community, what priority should we give production of
on-line specimen images?

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