Bishop Museum

Bytemarks Lunch - Dec. 17, 2009It's not often that I get to experience the other side of Bishop Museum. By other side I mean the collections side, apart from the main museum exhibits and special events. We got an invitation by Allen Allison, a previous guest on Bytemarks Cafe, to come get a glimpse of their collection from New Guinea. Unbeknownst to me, the Bishop Museum considers the entire Pacific region as their field of study. Dating to more than 50 years ago, scientist J. Linsley Gressitt started studying and collection samples from New Guinea for the Bishop Museum. Allen Allison, VP of Science at the Bishop Museum now continues that tradition. Our first stop was the auto-montage imaging station where Shepherd Myers, shown in the photo, explained how auto-montage works. Images tend to be very dependent on depth of field. When taking an image of scenery, the depth of field is less noticeable. But if you've ever taken a picture of a flower, you will notice that depending on the lighting and aperture setting, the background will be blurry. Depth of field is even more critical when taking pictures of 3D objects like bugs. With software and a high resolution camera, Myers can take 40 images with the focus adjusted to various depths of field and then stitch them together to make one photo comprised of 40 layers. It's quite impressive and an investment in time. Only a small percentage of the 22M specimens in the Bishop Museum collection are photographed with this detail. Bytemarks Lunch - Dec. 17, 2009Our Bytemarks lunch group also got treated to a visit to the collections area where row after row, cabinet after cabinet are filled with the Museum's insect collection. If you are into bugs this is the place to be. It is interesting for a place that contains so many bugs, they take extra care to keep all the live, local varieties out. The Museum provides the service of identifying species to other organizations and the public in general. This could involve sending the specimen to the Museum for identification as New York City did to identify the Asian Longhorn Beetle. Or it could be as simple as sending a photo to the Bishop Museum Flickr group: Ask a Bishop Museum Scientist. Our Bytemarks Lunch outing was obviously too short to experience but a small portion of the collections but it gave us a sense of the vast resource housed at the Museum, the 4th largest in the US. We did get to see what I wanted to personally witness, the giant rat from New Guinea. It was the culmination of a great science outing!