Research & Analysis Platform

Millions of fish specimens are preserved in formaldehyde, collected from all over the world, dating back to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair— Today, scientists performing rapid ecological inventories want to be able to compare specimens collected in the field with specimens collected from the same location many years ago, in order to identify trends or mutations as red flags for pollutants in waterways.

Framework and process to digitally measure and catalog millions of fish specimens for rapid scientific analysis.

30,000,000 Specimens in the Field Museum of Natural History Specimen Collection

Millions of Fishes

The Chicago Field Museum of Natural History is home to a collection of over 30,000,000 specimens collected for scientific research, of which only 0.1% are on display to the public. The include dinosaur bones, microscopic stardust, fossilized plants, and millions of fishes collected from around the world, dating back to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Discovery

Smelling a fish removed from its jar of formaldehyde for the first time in a century is easily the most pungent memory this nose can recall.

Imagine a dead fish smell cranked up to the intensity level of a 400-foot-drop. It’s difficult to think or act clearly. The process of digitizing a specimen must be swift and fool-proof. Field Museum interns will be subjected to the process for many years to come.

The main stakeholders are researchers conducting rapid assessments in the field today. Ideally, analysis of a specimen will require only a single standardized photograph of each fish. This will facilitate parity between analysis of specimens in the laboratory versus the field.

Framework and Process Design

A system of fish measurement is devised by the client, Barry Chernoff, curator and head of the Division of Fishes in the Department of Zoology at the Field Museum, and Rapid Assessment Program team leader.

Analysis of a specimen will be a two-phase process. First, take a photograph of each fish well-lit on a backdrop next to a ruler. Second, use a computer to tag the photograph with geometric points. This enables the process to begin with researchers in the field and finish with interns in the lab.

Software design is based on the ichthyologist’s formulas for comparison between fish geometry. Graph theory is employed in the analysis of specimens based on their geometry. Once ingested into this standard framework, any combination of specimens can be compared, resulting in a geometric analysis of the difference between the samples.

The system, originally built in the laboratory, is easily reproducible in the field. Also, this work is the precursor to developing a mobile app for this purpose in the future.

Lasting Impact

The process of digitizing all of the millions of fishes if simply too monstrous to actually complete. Instead, this framework and process facilitates iteration.

When preparing for a rapid inventory mission, researchers search the museum catalog for specimens which ought to be digitized ahead of time. Then, the platform will be prepared to make rapid comparisons to specimens located in the field.

And to this day, two decades later, museum interns are thrilled to get those fish back in the jar ASAP.

Right On Target

with 20+ years of professional wisdom, discipline, and tenacity.

Discovery

Shared knowledge yields a common language for communication about the project, informs design decisions, and defines what “success” means.

Research

Collaborate with stakeholders to understand context, map historical losses and victories, minimize risk, and identify opportunities.

Design

Towards the solution of clearly defined problems we form schemes intended to be expressed as media, software, and/or business process.

Software

Development experience spans numerous paradigms, dozens of computer languages, and hundreds of frameworks.

Iteration

Conceive, prototype, build, test, and analyze refinements in any product or process. Test data drives focused effort with optimal impact.

Repeat

Agile methodology provides a foundation to scope and deliver concise, manageable projects one after another, with measurable success.

Let’s talk.

I’m interested in business process, and keen to innovate.

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Charney Kaye

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