May 20 is World Bee Day, and thanks to a new digital collection of images featuring species native to Alberta, things may be looking up for the beleaguered flying insect.
Worldwide, bee populations have been on the decline since the 1990s.
The archive is seen as a valuable new resource to help study endangered species and develop healthier environments for bees.
The collection was created to increase understanding of the beneficial insects, says University of Calgary associate professor Paul Galpern, because it helps promote conservation, both in city and rural landscapes.
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Rob Alexander manages special projects for Digitization and Repository Services in LCR and is overseeing the creation of this new invertebrate collection. He works with students hired to work on this project.
“We began photographing the bee specimens in January 2018 after I experimented with the photographic process and stacking software for a couple of weeks,” says Alexander. “The bees are shot from three points of view: front, side and from above. Including metadata, editing and upload, each specimen takes around three hours to enter into the collection.”
The collection currently has over 200 bee species with plans to add more and expand into other invertebrates through contributions from undergraduate zoology students.
“Without the advances in computer technology and data storage, the depth of focus that makes these images so detailed wouldn’t have been possible,” Alexander explains. “While the photos in the collection are 16 to 18 megabytes in size, the raw data we need to store for just one bee is 12 gigabytes. The demand on storage capacity is huge.
“It’s a lengthy process but very satisfying,” he adds. “The thrill never wears off. The software starts stacking the images and when you see the final result on the monitor, it’s like the first time. I can’t get over how bees come in these many shapes, sizes and colours.”
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Direct to U. Calgary Digital Bee Collection