Abstract Glass Building


The NSF-funded phase of the LightningBug project started on August 1, 2021.

Progress reports will be posted monthly  starting October 15, 2021

LightningBug History & Project Timeline

Image by Emmanuél Appiah

Beyond the Box

December 05, 2014, to September 04, 2015

The Beyond the Box Digitization Competition planned to award up to $1 million to the person or team who creates an automated technology that increases the speed and accuracy of digitization of a drawer of insect specimens and their associated data. The Competition was a joint effort of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), with NSF serving as the Sponsor and AIBS serving as the Organizer.

No one submitted an entry for the competition.

Consolidating Efforts

​April 11, 2019

We began informal meetings, primarily with Argonne National Laboratory  (Mark Herald), Yale Peabody Museum (Nelson Rios and Larry Gall) Harvard (Crystal Maier) and SCAN (Neil Cobb). By the fall, 2019 the group had grown to include Rob Guralnick and Michael Denslow (the University of Florida, Notes from Nature) and international partners CSIRO-National Research Collections Australia (Nicole Fisher and Simon Checksfield) and the Natural History Museum – London (Ben Price).


Defining LightningBug

October 10, 2019 to

October 11, 2020

The LightningBug team sponsored two community webinars and made a formal presentation to a panel from the National Academy of Sciences. We engaged several additional unfunded collaborators including the Field Museum, the Smithsonian, and the California Academy of Sciences. The first proposal submitted to NSF in October, 2019 and a re-submission in November 2020.

NSF Funding for LightningBug

August 1, 2021

The NSF-Innovation: Bioinformatics: Collaborative Research: LightningBug, An Integrated Pipeline to Overcome the Biodiversity Digitization Gap. August 2021 to August 2024. $1,076,032 NSF Awards # 2104149 (Rios), 2104152 (Guralnick), 2104151 (Herald), 2104150 (Pierce).