Part of our budget from the Fossil Insect Collaborative NSF grant was to purchase equipment to set up a photography station. This is a challenging exercise for insects from the Solite Quarry, which are almost universally tiny and difficult to see at all without proper lighting. After getting lots of valuable advice at the iDigBio workshop and TCN meeting at New Haven last month (especially from Dave Grimaldi at AMNH, who has described many of the Solite insects), Christina and I returned to VMNH and started selecting the equipment we needed.The key item is a Canon 6D digital SLR camera, with a macro lens for closeup work. We also needed a high quality, stable camera stand, ring lights, and a miniature scale bar with 0.1 mm increments. We’re going to be adding a step motor and software for taking stacked images for greater depth of field, but some of that equipment is back-ordered (and fortunately, most of the Solite insects are so flat that depth of field isn’t an issue). Finally, we got a new iMac and a massive external hard drive to control and store everything. Christina is still working on getting ideal camera settings, and we have a lot of workflow issues to address, but the setup is now largely complete (above) and we’ve started getting our first photos:
We have other small critters besides insects at Solite. Below is the locality’s only known spider, Argyrarachne solitus.
To see how much of an improvement our new setup offers, compare this closeup of the legs (note the hairs) to the images I included in my 2009 blog post on this specimen:
Finally, you can’t keep me away from the vertebrates! Here’s the juvenile specimen of Tanytrachelos ahynis we collected in 2009:
As we get further into this project, we’ll be posting a lot more photos of Solite insects, as well as other critters from various sites.