Data Science Center Blog
Eva Horna Lowell and Sean O’Fallon, graduate students in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, are researching ant nest behavior in the Pinter-Wollman Lab at UCLA. Initially, their goal was to study the differences in ant nests exposed to various environmental conditions using wax casts of the tunnels. However, because the tunnels were so intricate and delicate in nature, the casts kept breaking, making it necessary to approach the problem in a different way.
Broken pieces of the ant nest cast. The segments had to be painted in order for the scanner to see them.
At the Data Science Center (DSC) Lux Lab, Emerging Technologies Librarian Doug Daniels helped them figure out a way to record detailed information about the nests without sacrificing the integrity of the tunnels. Using an Artec Space Spider Scanner with a 0.1 mm resolution light scanner, Lowell and O’Fallen were able to get 3D scans of the ant nest. There were some challenges, given that the casts had already broken into pieces, but with a collaborative effort, they were able to start the reconstruction of the nest virtually. Communication was key, as you can imagine how hard it is to describe the orientation of an object purely through video chat and screen sharing. It’s also interesting to note that the casted pieces of the nest had to be hand-painted for the scanner to see them. Originally translucent, the pieces were unable to be properly scanned. The scanner simply could not make out their shapes because it was a light scanner as opposed to a laser scanner.
A 3D representation of a part of an ant nest on the computer. Each broken segment is a different color in the software.