Zooscan | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research


The zooSCAN is a device used to (1) make digital images of zooplankton samples, (2) process and analyze collected zooplankton samples in a fast and semi-automatic way, and (3) collect data on rapidly degenerating gelatinous plankton. Zooplankton is at the base of the food chain and the composition zooplankton species is often used to determine the ecological quality of marine water bodies. Therefore, the use of the zooSCAN has proved to be of a great advantage for analyzing large sample sets.   

How does a zooSCAN work?

The zooSCAN uses a scanner technology with custom lighting and a watertight scanning chamber into which liquid zooplankton samples can be placed. The scanner makes a digital, high-resolution image. The liquid sample can be recovered without damage through a drainage channel. With a resolution of approximately 10,6 µm, the zooSCAN can be used for image objects greater than 200 µm. The zooSCAN is therefore well suited to study zooplankton. The digital images are analysed by a computer; all organisms/particles can be assigned to distinct taxonomic groups (e.g. Appendicularia, Calanoida, Gammaridae, etc.). A distinction can also be drawn between organisms, debris, sand, plastics, etc. This identification is based on a semi-automatic comparison of each organism/particle in the scanned image with a library set. Such a library can be built for each organism/particle or can be imported from a previous survey. Although the algorithm allows a high recognition level of the organisms, a complementary manual sorting is recommended to achieve a high number of taxonomic groups. 


Usefulness of zooSCAN?

  • Obtaining detailed meta-data for each scanned image.
  • Possibility to present the enumeration and identification results graphically. In this way, the results can be compared to previous/other studies.
  • Although the resolution of the digitized zooplankton images is lower than the image obtained using a binocular microscope, this technique has proved to be more adequate for large sample sets.
  • Thanks to its simple use, the zooSCAN can be used by both students, scientists and technical staff
  • Handle and analyse zooplankton samples in a quick and semi-automated way

Some studies:

  • Identify and monitoring of zooplankton in the Belgian part of the North Sea:

This is executed in the framework of LifeWatch (coordination of VLIZ and the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO)).

  • Comparison of traditional microscopy and digitized image analysis to identify and delineate pelagic fish egg spatial distribution:

Lelièvre S. et al. (2012)

  • Zooplankton and its role in the North Sea food webs:

Van Ginderdeuren, K. (2013)

Technical details

The zooSCAN of VLIZ has the following technical details:

  • Dimensions:

© hydroptic.com

  • Weigth: 25 Kg
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Resistant to salt water, formaldehyde and ethanol
  • Sample volume: 0,2 tot 1 liter
  • Image resolution: up to 4800 dpi
  • Each image is processed as a single frame of 24,5 cm x 15,8 cm
  • Optimized lighting system to enhance image quality and contrast
  • Click here for more technical details

How to make use of the zooSCAN?

Scientists associated with universities or scientific institutions can use our equipment. Contact VLIZ for more information.

Use and conditions

Note: if you use the zooSCAN of VLIZ as a scientist, please refer to it in your publications as: "This work was supported by data & infrastructure provided by VLIZ as part of the Flemish contribution to LifeWatch."