Fossil Image Development + Management

CBRC Collection Websites

IUPC Website

Visit the IUPC

William R. Adams Zooarch Lab

Link to the WRAZL



3. 3-D scanning

provides an exact physical copy
protects original specimens
increases accessibility

time intensive
training required


We use laser scanning with the Faro Arm ($55k) – scan image and then software uses trigonometric calculations of the angles to produce the 3-D image that can be rotated on the computer (as a contrast:  photogrammetry is 2-D photography that produces 3-D images when all the images are stitched together).



Prior to producing the 3-D image, data need to be cleaned up using the software package, and the holes need to be filled in in the mesh.

Result is a clean 3-D image that can be manipulated (rotated) with software, sent to a 3-D printer, published to a 3-D housing site with its metadata.

Download a Photogrammetry flow chart

II. Machine-Learning Algorithms

In addition to fossils and their handwritten cards with the metadata, we also have field notebooks, pictures of rock outcrops, and, importantly, catalogues with handwritten numbers associated with fossils and rocks collected and reposited in our paleontology and zooarchaeology collections. In essence, we are using machine learning to train computers to read handwriting to get the handwritten catalogue data into a digital record. We simultaneously upgrade and update the fossil taxonomy using algorithms. 

III. Accessing Digitized Collections - The Collections Management Software

Metadata consist of the name of the fossil, its GPS or state, county, location, geologic age of specimen, rock layer in which it is found, etc.  These data need to be transcribed from the handwritten cards into the computer, then image and metadata are entered into a database, such as IU Archives.  IU Archives houses IMAGO, which contains our checked, standardized images and their associated metadata. The result is a high-resolution image with its metadata available to the public.

The required software into which we place all our images and metadata for all NSF grants is SPECIFY.  It took us A LONG TIME to get SPECIFY to work properly, but we did it!



Our NSF grant allowed us develop the digitized records our IU Paleontology Collection fossil images and their metadata (from the 3 methods described above), add it to SPECIFY, then to the Digital Atlas of Ordovician Life (an Atlas to which a consortium of researchers have contributed). From this Atlas researchers make interpretations of the history of migratory routes of brachiopod fossils, and thus movement of ancient seas across southern Ohio and Indiana. This Ordovician time records one of the world’s great biodiversification events. Importantly the fossils in our IU Paleontology Collection added important data to furthering an  understanding of this evolutionary event.

iDigBio – is a national digitization hub for the entire country. This software takes images and metadata from the entire country into this site.

iDigPaleo – is software that takes images and metadata, and paleontologists who are specialists divide the data into topics for teaching and makes these lesson plans available to all; e.g. what teeth reveal about diet (herbivore or carnivore); what seashells reveal about the history of marine life; what insects can tell us.

BOTTOM LINE:  We’ve worked out the kinks with our IU Paleontology Collection and have been successful with obtaining external funding through NSF and IMLS, and with herbarium specimens, now to zooarchaeology specimens. 

IV. Smart Phone Apps

From data in publicly accessible databases, smart phone apps have been developed and are popping up on the market.

Rockd – is based on GPS coordinates and geologic data.  One can download the app, go to a park, see if it has fossils and rocks of a certain age.

Flyover Country – download your flight plan to see coal mines, ancient coral reefs that have been mined for the limestone south of Chicago, rock structures across the country, rocks from which specific dinosaur species, or invertebrates have been collected.