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Benefits and limitations of three-dimensional printing technology for ecological research

Overview of attention for article published in BMC Ecology, September 2018
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About this Attention Score

  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • Among the highest-scoring outputs from this source (#26 of 421)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (95th percentile)

Mentioned by

5 news outlets
1 blog
6 tweeters
1 Facebook page


16 Dimensions

Readers on

91 Mendeley
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Benefits and limitations of three-dimensional printing technology for ecological research
Published in
BMC Ecology, September 2018
DOI 10.1186/s12898-018-0190-z
Pubmed ID

Jocelyn E. Behm, Brenna R. Waite, S. Tonia Hsieh, Matthew R. Helmus


Ecological research often involves sampling and manipulating non-model organisms that reside in heterogeneous environments. As such, ecologists often adapt techniques and ideas from industry and other scientific fields to design and build equipment, tools, and experimental contraptions custom-made for the ecological systems under study. Three-dimensional (3D) printing provides a way to rapidly produce identical and novel objects that could be used in ecological studies, yet ecologists have been slow to adopt this new technology. Here, we provide ecologists with an introduction to 3D printing. First, we give an overview of the ecological research areas in which 3D printing is predicted to be the most impactful and review current studies that have already used 3D printed objects. We then outline a methodological workflow for integrating 3D printing into an ecological research program and give a detailed example of a successful implementation of our 3D printing workflow for 3D printed models of the brown anole, Anolis sagrei, for a field predation study. After testing two print media in the field, we show that the models printed from the less expensive and more sustainable material (blend of 70% plastic and 30% recycled wood fiber) were just as durable and had equal predator attack rates as the more expensive material (100% virgin plastic). Overall, 3D printing can provide time and cost savings to ecologists, and with recent advances in less toxic, biodegradable, and recyclable print materials, ecologists can choose to minimize social and environmental impacts associated with 3D printing. The main hurdles for implementing 3D printing-availability of resources like printers, scanners, and software, as well as reaching proficiency in using 3D image software-may be easier to overcome at institutions with digital imaging centers run by knowledgeable staff. As with any new technology, the benefits of 3D printing are specific to a particular project, and ecologists must consider the investments of developing usable 3D materials for research versus other methods of generating those materials.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 6 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 91 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 91 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Ph. D. Student 14 15%
Student > Bachelor 13 14%
Researcher 8 9%
Student > Master 8 9%
Student > Postgraduate 4 4%
Other 15 16%
Unknown 29 32%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 19 21%
Engineering 15 16%
Business, Management and Accounting 6 7%
Unspecified 3 3%
Environmental Science 3 3%
Other 14 15%
Unknown 31 34%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 55. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 01 April 2020.
All research outputs
of 20,477,298 outputs
Outputs from BMC Ecology
of 421 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 293,253 outputs
Outputs of similar age from BMC Ecology
of 1 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 20,477,298 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 97th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 421 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 13.5. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 94% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 293,253 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 95% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 1 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has scored higher than all of them