The fossil insect collaborative: an NSF-funded paleontology collections digitization project

Dena M. Smith, Susan Butts, Alton C. Dooley, Michael S. Engel, Brian D. Farrell, David A. Grimaldi, Sam W. Heads, Talia S. Karim, Christopher A. Norris

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Fossil insects provide a unique deep-time record of ecological and evolutionary response to environmental changes of the past and therefore are invaluable for understanding the impacts of climate change on the current biodiversity crisis. Given current models of future climate change and the important role that insects play in human society (biodiversity, pests, pollination, vectors of disease) the ability to access these data and make predictions about future insect populations becomes even more urgent. The central goal of the Fossil Insect Collaborative is to make available all the major collections of fossil insect specimens in the United States by creating electronic specimen records consisting of digital images and associated collection data. Funding for this project comes from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program. This Thematic Collections Network (TCN) project has received four years of funding support and will digitize over half a million fossil insects specimens. The collaborative team includes seven major public institutions and two federal institutions. New partners are currently working on the submission of Partners to Existing Networks (PEN) proposals to contribute to this effort. In addition, institutions with smaller fossil insect collections plan to provide either specimen loans or images and associated data directly to project partners. Dissemination of images and project data will be achieved through the project website textlessfossilinsects.colorado.edutextgreater and the development of a centralized hub called iDigPaleo, which will be used to aggregate paleontological specimen data and serve them to iDigBio and other biodiversity aggregators. Additionally, fossil insect data will be used to develop mobile apps and educational activities that allow a wide variety of users to experience and interact directly with these collections. Online access to specimens, their metadata and associated images, in combination with the collaborative and educational tools that will be developed as part of the Fossil Insect Collaborative will further enhance accessibility and interaction between the research community, K-16 educators, government and industry, and the general public.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGSA Conference 2014
StatePublished - 2014


  • INHS


Dive into the research topics of 'The fossil insect collaborative: an NSF-funded paleontology collections digitization project'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this