Three-dimensional Digitization of Insect Collections

disc3d renders

The aim of this project is to provide online access to valuable biological collections for researchers, educators, and the general public. As data management partner, GFBio e.V. facilitates transfer and storage of the digitization data generated in the project and develops a data portal where 3D and 2D data can be explored.


Seven german museums generate six thousand highly-detailed 3D scans of valuable entomological and paleontological specimens. These will be made freely available through a web application, featuring an innovative viewer for exploring 3D and 2D data simultaneously.


Worldwide, taxonomic collections house an extensive number of stored specimens, including 50 million prepared insects in German museums alone. Type specimens, in particular, hold great significance in taxonomical research as decisive tools for taxon definitions. However, physical access and handling of these specimens are severely restricted due to their significance in biosciences. To address these challenges, our project focuses on digitizing specimens, thereby opening up access to their valuable collections.

To ensure high-quality visualization and explore advanced technology for large datasets, the collections utilize DISC3D, a specialized system for focus-stacking photogrammetry. For digitization they capture specimens from approximately 400 angles using high-resolution EDOF (extended depth of focus) images. These images are processed using photogrammetry software to generate precise, to-scale 3D models.

Our Role

As data management partner, GFBio e.V.

  1. facilitates transfer and storage of 2D and 3D data, as well as their metadata.
  2. develops a data portal acting as central hub for interaction with and retrieval of these large datasets.
  3. coordinates the long-term archival and publication of the data.
  4. ensures interoperability with relevant national and international data infrastructures like NFDI4Biodiversity.

Data Portal

The DISC3D data portal provides functionalities for uploading, validating, browsing, viewing, exploring, and retrieving data and metadata. We employ an agile development progress and utilize a containerized Django stack to deliver our product.

Project Partners

Heethoff, Michael: Technische Universität Darmstadt.

Berger, Frederik: Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

Husemann, Martin: Centrum für Naturkunde, Hamburg.

Kostadinov, Ivaylo: German Federation for Biological Data - GFBio e.V.

Kuhlmann, Michael: Zoologisches Museum der Universität Kiel.

Matenaar, Daniela; Wappler, Torsten: Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt.

Michalik, Peter: Zoologisches Museum der Universität Greifswald.

Raupach, Michael: Zoologische Staatssammlung München.

Stäcker, Thomas: Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt.

Wipfler, Benjamin: Museum Alexander König, Bonn.


DFG project ID: 495869174