By Tomas Bustamante
The Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory at the University of Florida (UF HBREL) is making a free computer program called MorphoMetric to streamline the collection of measurements from images that could have applications in ecology research, citizen science, conservation, monitoring for invasive pests, and education.
We are designing the software to save time and money in morphometry work by making data collection more efficient, and to make such projects easier to do by providing additional supporting features. Morphometric techniques are used in many fields for analyzing the morphology or shapes of organisms. They are important for comparing different populations of insects and for identification purposes in monitoring or conservation. They offer a more accessible alternative to molecular techniques that can be expensive by comparison. In fact, the prototype for MorphoMetric was developed while comparing the morphology of South African honey bee subspecies. Fleshing out the prototype into a full-fledged application will give other researchers a tool to overcome many of the challenges that we faced.
We also want to make a program that is easy to use so that it can be suitable for citizen-science projects and education as well. It will feature a number of crowd-sourced management tools that will allow project leads to easily distribute data collection among many individual people. This will give labs a new framework to engage the general community in their work. With this in mind, the software will be intuitive enough for people of many different backgrounds to use. As an example, the team that used the prototype version while studying honey bees had members of diverse educational backgrounds ranging from postdoctoral researchers to high school students.
We need your help!
The UF HBREL is raising funds to pay for the work going into the project through the popular crowdfunding site Indiegogo (see http://igg.me/at/MorphoMetric). Please consider donating a few dollars so that the software can be fully developed. There are just a few days left before the funding campaign ends, so any amount would be a great help! There are some neat “perks” available for backers, including amazing posters or beautiful UF HBREL bee hive equipment.
Another way to help is by sharing the project with your friends and family. One of the main ideals behind MorphoMetric is that it is “so easy anybody can use it.” From professional researchers, to citizen scientists, to students, to teachers, to state employees — anybody that is interested in learning, teaching, or doing science in this field will want to know about this software. The Indiegogo page contains tools to help you share this on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
With your help, we can make a computer program that will help researchers in this field and open it up for students, citizen scientists, and volunteers.
Tomas Bustamante is a graduate student at the University of Florida Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory in Gainesville, Florida. His research focuses on the morphology of honey bees in South Africa. You can learn more about the lab through their website or their Facebook page.