ANSP Algae Image Database Information

Phycology Images

Topics on this page:

Taxa Names

The taxon name shown in larger letters in the species lists and the image labels is the name currently preferred by Phycology Section staff. We plan to update these names as taxonomic nomenclature evolves. Names in smaller letters are the ones used when the imaged specimen was first identified. Note that in some cases a specimen was misidentified in the past and the current name is not a synonym of the original. We keep and display original applied names because a purpose of this site is to provide documentation for papers and reports in which those names were used.

Back to top

Finding Images

Images can be searched by genus and species and by geographic location.

Searching by taxon:

Select a genus from the "Genus" drop-down box and then choose either "Species List" or "Thumbnails." The "Species List" choice provides a list of all the taxa in the genus for which there are images, and the number of images of each. To select taxa of interest, click the check box next to each name. To select all taxa in the list check the "All Species" box. Then click "Get Image Data" to retrieve a list of individual images of the taxa chosen and information on sources of the images and their quality. As with the previous step, check individual images to be viewed, or the "All Species" box, and then click "Get Image Data." The "Species List" search pathway can save time when selecting taxa from genera with large numbers of images. The "Thumbnail" choice retrieves images directly, and is efficient for viewing smaller numbers of images.

Each search looks through both the list of current-preferred names and the list of original names. Thus, for any "Genus" selected at the start of a search, the species list returned will include not only taxa in that genus, but also ones that were either originally in, or changed to, a different genus. For example, selection of "Genus" Navicula would return some taxa in the genus Craticula as well as Navicula.

To view only images of unknown and undescribed taxa in a genus, check the "Unidentified Taxa Only" box before initiating a search.

Searching by geography:

Select an item from one or more of the dropdown boxes: "State", "Waterbody", or "Geographical Study Unit (GSU)." The GSU choices vary depending on the projects for which they were created; for example, U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) GSUs are individual Study Units, or major watersheds. Clicking "Get Image Data" will return a list of images of specimens collected from locations meeting the search criteria. Check boxes next to individual images to be viewed, or check the "All Species" box and then click "Get Image Data."

Back to top

Viewing Images

To view full size image, click on thumbnail. Image will appear in a separate browser window. It can be copied and saved as a separate file. Images are in PNG format.

Scale is sometimes indicated by a scale bar, but most often by length and width dimensions. Some early images were not accompanied by measurements or scale bars, so no scale information is presented. Most images were taken at 1000 X.

To view information such as source of the image, dimensions, and taxonomic comments, click on the name of the taxon, highlighted in red. Information will appear in a separate browser window. If you would like to add a comment, see "Posting Comments" below. Some images acquired from outside the Academy, and some not made with the original intention of being included in the database, have little information regarding their source. They are made available, however, because the quality of the images is good and they represent the taxon well.

Back to top

Sources of Images

Images come from several sources. Most were made by staff of the PCER Phycology Section during their day to day analysis of samples for various projects and their re-examination of specimens as part of the data analysis process. The ANSP PCER Phycology Section staff members who contributed images or identified specimens include Todd Clason (former employee), Lont Marr, Eduardo Morales, Ruth Patrick, Karin Ponader, Marina Potapova, Noma Ann Roberts (former employee), and Diane Winter. Contributing collaborators include William Cody (independent consultant), Kalina Manoylov (Michigan State University) and Natalie West ( student intern). Several images were made in preparation for small taxonomic workshops held at the Academy. Some images are of type specimens from the ANSP Diatom Herbarium and other collections. With some exceptions, the microscope slides with imaged specimens are curated in the ANSP Diatom Herbarium.

Many images were made or enhanced at the former NAWQA Biology Unit (BU), in the USGS National Water Quality Laboratory in Denver, by Vicki Anderle under the direction of John Kingston. Microscope slides with circled specimens were sent by contractors (ANSP, University of Louisville, University of Michigan, California Academy of Sciences) to the BU where images were made. Disks with images were later transferred to the Academy.

Back to top

Database Origins

Donald Charles initiated efforts to create the database, and continues to supervise its development. The original web application was designed by Susan Williams of Micro Endeavors, Inc. in consultation with Patrick Cotter and Donald Charles in 1999, both of whom designed the underlying database. The web application was substantially modified, first by Patrick Cotter in 2000 and then in 2001 by Kathleen Sprouffske, who was the database and website administrator. David Waterman further modified the website and developed the system to post comments on indivdual images in 2002. Phycology Section staff (listed above, and including Frank Acker), contributed significantly to the design of the website by explaining user needs and providing feedback during the development process. Colleagues including Kalina Manoylov and Jan Stevenson at Michigan State University, William Cody and Loren Bahls also provided useful comments. Eduardo Morales and Marina Potapova reviewed and approved all available images.

Creation of the database and website application was supported through Patrick Center internal funding. Addition and documentation of most images are funded by projects for which samples are being analyzed, the largest being the USGS NAWQA program (see WaterLine article). The computer server on which the database runs was purchased with funds provided by the National Science Foundation.

Back to top

Posting Comments

We encourage webpage users to post comments about the identification of algae images. Anyone can use this feature to share ideas and promote discussion about the images on this website.

Posting Procedure:

To add a comment, click on the “Post a comment” button in the Image Details box. You will be asked to enter your name, email, institution, and comment. You can view the most recent comments by clicking "Recent Comments on Images" on the left side of the screen. All posted comments are displayed along with an image's details when an administrator from the Academy approves your post. Comments are monitored by Phycology staff. At the time each comment is added to the Algae Image database, Phycology staff is also automatically notified of the new post. Inappropriate language and HTML commands are not permitted, and line feeds and multiple spaces are automatically removed. Additionally, comments are limited to 1000 letters – you can determine the number of letters you have already entered in your message by clicking "Count Letters."

Privacy Policy:

Your name, institution, message, and the date on which you posted the message are all displayed publicly. No other collected information about you is revealed to the public or to third parties.

Back to top

Citing the Database

Recommended citation format for the ANSP Algae Image Database:
ANSP Algae Image Database from the Phycology Section, Patrick Center for Environmental Research, The Academy of Natural Sciences at

Example citation of an individual image:
ANSP Algae Image Database, Phycology Section, Patrick Center for Environmental Research, The Academy of Natural Sciences. Retreived 25 June 2003 from and

Back to top


Please contact concerning overall database design, background and use policy. Please contact about taxonomic issues or website errors. We encourage your comments and questions. Please contact us about any apparent errors. Let us know your suggestions for improvements.

Back to top