Image showing the icons for the Digital Atlas apps.

Digital Atlas Apps

As part of the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life project, we have developed two apps to help you identify and learn about fossils: the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life App and the Digital Atlas Identify App. Each is described below.

Digital Atlas of Ancient Life App

The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life App takes the content from the web versions of the Digital Atlases of Ancient Life fossil field guides and translates it to those handheld devices humans seem to be increasingly tethered to: our smart phones.

The creators of the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life recognized that the general public and educators might sometimes want to identify fossils in the field, where they likely don't have wi-fi or cell service. The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life App was developed to address this problem.


The App provides a version of the content available online, but abridged and adapted for what computer folks refer to as the ‘handheld device environment.’ On the App, images of species are available just as with the online version, split up by taxonomic category starting at the level of phylum. Options are available to browse groups of species as well; the maps that are available on the App are somewhat more detailed than those in the online version.


Screenshots from the Neogene portion of the Digital Atlas App.

Further, the App provides content for major groups of invertebrate fossils from four major time periods and geographic regions in the United States: the Ordovician of the Cincinnatian region, the Pennsylvanian of the Mid-Continent, and the Neogene of the southeast, as well as invertebrate and vertebrate groups for the Cretaceous of the American Midwest and High Plains, just as the website provides.

The App is free and available for both iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android devices.

The development of the Digital Atlas App was supported by National Science Foundation grants through the Emerging Frontiers and Advancing the Digitization of Biological Collections programs that created the PALEONICHES – Thematic Collections Network (TCN) and the Cretaceous World TCN, respectively. It was programmed by Rod and Zach Spears of Lawrence, KS.

Images of species and information about their distribution comes from collections at the American Museum of Natural History, the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Fort Hays State University, the Miami (Ohio) University, the Ohio Univesity, the Paleontological Research Institution, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, the University of Colorado, the University of Florida, the University of Kansas, the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas, and Yale University.

For media interviews and stories about the Digital Atlas App check out:

KU professor helps develop app that identifies fossils”, write up and interview on fossil app, Lawrence-Journal World, Lawrence, KS, March 2, 2020.

There are millions of fossils in Kansas. Here’s how you can find one”, article and radio interview on fossil app for KMUW 89.1, Wichita, KS NPR station, March 2, 2020.

Dig It”, interview about work on Digital Atlas of Ancient Life “App” featured, KCUR 89.3 Kansas City, MO, on Central Standard, NPR radio show, premiered November 19, 2015.

“App for Finding Fossils”, interview and work on Digital Atlas of Ancient Life “App” featured, 6News Lawrence, local television show, premiered October 19, 2015.

“Free App Empowers Public to Locate, Recognize Ancient Fossils”, work on Digital Atlas of Ancient Life “App” mentioned,, column covering physics, astronomy, and biology topics of broad public interest, premiered October 15, 2015, and also at Mental Floss.

Digital Atlas Identify App

This free app enables you to upload your own fossil photos for taxonomic identification. You can take pictures of the specimens from inside the app, or choose them from your photo library. Once the photo is uploaded, a professional paleontologists will identify the specimen taxonomically and the new identification will be displayed in the application. You can choose to make it available to the wider community by making it "public," allowing it to be displayed in the Feed screen of the app.

The Digital Atlas Identify app is currently only available for iOS (iPhones and iPads). It may be downloaded directly from the Apple App Store.


The new version (1.0) of the Digital Atlas Identify App is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to principal investigators Dr. Bruce S. Lieberman (University of Kansas), Dr. Jonathan Hendricks (Paleontological Research Institution), Dr. Laurie Anderson (South Dakota School of Mines & Technology), Dr. Susan Butts (Yale University), Dr. Talia Karim (University of Colorado), Dr. Neil Landman (American Museum of Natural History), Dr. Rowan Martindale (University of Texas), Dr. Cori Myers (University of New Mexico), and Dr. Laura Wilson (Fort Hays State University). The grant is titled: "The Cretaceous World TCN: Digitizing Fossils to Reconstruct Evolving Ecosystems in the Western Interior Seaway" (TCN stands for Thematic Collections Network).

This project is related to a broader natural history specimen digitization effort supported by the National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) called Integrated Digitized Biocollections, or iDigBio.

Funding for development and construction of this app was provided by the National Science Foundation (EF-1206757, EF-1206769, EF-1206750, and DBI-1602067, DBI-1601878, DBI-1645520, DBI-1601729, DBI-1601884, DBI-1601994, DBI-1602101.