Miniature Lives Magnified

Close-up of the head of a chalcid wasp

At a glance

Transcribe microscope slide labels.

Type of activity: Online

When? August 2016 to June 2017

This project is currently closed. Thank you to the 1,000-plus digital volunteers who helped us to extract research data from over 6,000 microscope slides of the world's smallest insects.

About the project

The Museum is on a mission to digitise the 80 million specimens in its collection. We want to make the information the specimens hold about the natural world more openly available to scientists and the public.

We have imaged more than 100,000 microscope slides of tiny insects, barely visible to the naked eye. We have been asking digital volunteers for the Museum to help transcribe information from the specimen labels so that the data can be used for scientific research.

The killer within: wasps, but not as you know them

Our first collection focused on a group of wasps called chalcids (pronounced 'kal-sids'). These tiny wasps are parasitoids, meaning they lay their eggs inside other insects. When chalcid eggs hatch the emerging larvae eat the inside of their host. They then grow and pupate until mature enough to burst out as adults, finally killing the host.

This unique life cycle makes chalcids an important biological control agent, protecting crops and reducing invasive species.

Where will this data go?

We are now processing the chalcid collection's specimen label data that was transcribed by our digital volunteers. It will become available on the Museum's Data Portal for anyone in the world to study.

How can I become a digital volunteer?

We will publish another collection of slides for transcription in autumn 2017. In the meantime, you can participate in our latest project, Miniature Fossils Magnified.

1. Visit the 'Magnified' group on the Notes from Nature website.

2. (Optional) Register as a member of Zooniverse.

3. Choose 'Miniature Fossils Magnified'.

4. Follow the instructions to transcribe the data from our microscope slides.

Project team

About the digital collections programme

In partnership with Notes from Nature, a National Science Foundation-funded project.

Visit the Notes from Nature website below.

Discover more about parasitoid wasps

Get the latest updates from our citizen science team