Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Butterfly Map

Butterflies is a Leaflet powered map which allows you to explore images of butterflies from the Natural History Museum's digital records. The map shows over 150,000 butterflies which have been organized, classified and mapped using deep learning.

The butterflies have been classified and mapped using the t-SNE machine learning algorithm for visualization. This type of machine learning algorithm maps similar objects closely together and dissimilar objects further apart. Interestingly the taxonomy developed by the algorithm closely matches the biological genus of the butterflies.

If you click on the image of a butterfly on the map then an information window opens showing the original Natural History Museum digital record and its classification and Latin name. You can learn more about how the map was made on Visualizing 150000 Butterflies From the Natural History Museum. This blog post also includes an image of the map with scientific labels showing the genus names of the clustered butterfly families.

The Butterflies map isn't the first time that the Leaflet mapping platform has been used to map small winged insects. British photographer Levon Biss has used the Leaflet mapping library to present close-up photographs of insects. His Microsculpture allows you to view high resolution photos of insect specimens from Oxford University Museum of Natural History in exquisitely fine detail using the Leaflet zooming and panning tools.

Each insect's completed image map consists of around 8,000 individual photographs (the large scale photographic prints are up to 3m high), captured using optical microscopes. The Leaflet mapping library really allows the user to fully explore these high resolution photos by zooming in close on the insects. The map scale in the top right-hand corner of the map provides a useful guide to the size of the insects as you zoom in & out on the images.

And it isn't only insects which can be found on Leaflet maps. Back in 2016 Cornell Lab created a beautiful Wall of Birds interactive map of a photograph of the wall mural in the Cornell Lab's Visitor Center.

Cornell Lab hired artist Jane Kim to paint a huge mural of birds on the largest wall in the Cornell Lab’s Visitor Center. The mural depicts species from all surviving bird families on a map of the world. Each of the 243 birds featured in the mural is painted on the map in a country where that species can be found.

The Leaflet powered map of the mural not only allows you to explore the exquisite detail in Jane Kim's painting it also allows you to learn more about each of the featured species of bird. Click on a bird on the map and a side panel opens with information on the selected species. You can even hear the song of each bird by clicking on the embedded audio recording from the Macaulay Library.

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