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oBird brings 3D museum specimens to the people for research, education & outreach


Josh capturing a 3D model of the holotype of the Tufted Jay, Cyanocorax dickeyi, using a turntable with shutter integration

Natural history collections provide vital biodiversity informing our planet, but access to the wealth of information contained in museum specimens is often tucked away behind closed doors. Our solution is oBird (for outside the bird), a method for generating real-color 3D models for research, teaching and outreach. While 3D models can never replace specimens, but they can provide better access to phenotypic features like plumage color for studies into bird evolution, ecology, and conservation. Plus they are just darn cool.

oBird is the brainchild of Josh Medina ‘19, former undergraduate at Occidental College and Russian language major with a background in computer coding and virtual reality. Josh devised an efficient pipeline for processing bird specimens to 3D models using a technique called photogrammetry, which stitches hundreds of photos from around each specimen into a life-like model.

In 2020, oBird was funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the oVert Thematic Collections Network to 3D vertebrate diversity. Meanwhile, Josh was awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for graduate work on biological 3D modeling at UMass - Amherst.

The paper describing the photogrammetry method:

Medina JJ, JM Maley, S Sannapareddy, NN Medina, CM Gilman & JE McCormack. 2020. A rapid and cost-effective pipeline for digitization of museum specimens with 3D photogrammetry. PLoS One 15(8): e0236417

Follow our Sketchfab page for the latest 3D models.


Staff Lead Investigator: Russell Campbell

Staff Researchers: John McCormack & Whitney Tsai

Student Researchers: Tatiana Washington '25, Campbell Gilbert '24

Past Students: Anqi Wu '24, Ian Vogenthaler '22, Rodrigo Guerra '22, Joshua Medina '20, Cynthia Zhang, Sid Sannapareddy '21, Eddie Valdez, Cy Gilman (Columbia University), Kevin Grundy ‘19

Past Staff: Noah Medina