Our designer, Jen Liu an Emerging Media Master's student at Carnegie Mellon University, is helping us brainstorm ways to organize the new content management system and image annotation tool for the expanded online teaching collection at www.macroinvertebrates.org. For the first round iterations, she began by sketching potential screens layouts in her notebook and scanned them in for us to look at and discuss. Some of the important features surfaced were the need to have a visual overview of the entire database, and have the insects organized from the beginning in the taxonomic hierarchy that biologists use—Genera [that's the plural of Genus] within Families, Families within Orders, etc). If you looked at the original forms for this information, you'll see a lot of the same sorts of information, just organized all in one place. We are still working on designing this CMS-- early paper prototyping of the digital system is a really helpful step because it allows the team to flexibly to imagine the system and possible design directions without yet committing to downstream solutions.
For the current version of our online teaching collection, a lot of information for the site was captured and stored in various different servers and cloud storage, depending on the type of information and availability of storage space. In order to expand the collection and capture the information and annotations for each of the new specimens that are going to be on the site, we need an updated content management system. Part of the project is designing that "backend" system in a way that is usable by our entomology and imaging team, and ensuring that the information is captured and stored in a way that will allow us to try out different ideas on the "frontend" (the site that our visitors and users actually see!)
In order to do this, we first revisited the original information capture system, which used a set of three google forms as well as a prototype annotation tool for the annotations that you see when you click on the actual zoomable specimen images on www.macroinvertebrates.org.
Click through the gallery below to learn more about our early content management system, and keep reading to hear about how we're designing the new one.
On March 23, we visited our imaging specialist and entomologist at Powdermill Nature Reserve, and documented some of her process for taking high resolution, focus-stacked, zoomable images (see some examples here: www.gigapan.com) with Dr. Richard Palmer, an expert in high resolution macro photography who gave us some advice on process, lighting and equipment.
In the gallery above you'll see a few photos of the imaging process at work using Gene Cooper's GigaMacro rig.
An interdisciplinary team