Why Star*sand?

The site name is a pun. Star*sand is part of a network of sites, collectively called the micro*scope project, that use a common taxonomic database structure called cu*star. Star*sand's "collection" within micro*scope can be accessed directly, and additional features will be available at the portal site you are visiting now.

Micro*scope sites are encouraged to use an asterisk in their names. "Star*sand" is a nod both to the name of the taxonomy software and to a famous natural demonstration of the overwhelming abundance and diversity of foraminiferal species: the beautiful "star sands" of Okinawa, which are formed from the tests of foraminifera like Calcarina and Baculogypsina.

The micro*scope platform offers a comprehensive infrastructure for handling information about foraminiferans. The aim of the micro*scope project, which receives support from the Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, Massachusetts), the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is to act as an electronic gateway to information about protists. Some information (images, species descriptions, etc.) is stored in the database itself, and additional features allow the user to search online resources in a sophisticated way for more information.

The star*sand collection currently (as of November 2005) contains images and information on ~200 foraminiferal species, living and fossil; more are added weekly. Plans are being developed to provide enhanced services, including data-mining tools and a "Build Your Own Field Guide" feature.