SAFS in the News: Scientists to create digital encyclopedia of 3-D vertebrate specimens

SAFS professors Luke Tornabene and Adam Summers are featured in UW Today:

‘A $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant will daylight thousands of specimens from their museum shelves by CT scanning 20,000 vertebrates and making these data-rich, 3-D images available online to researchers, educators, students and the public.

The project oVert, short for openVertebrate, complements other NSF-sponsored museum digitization efforts, such as iDigBio, by adding a crucial component that has been difficult to capture — the internal anatomy of specimens.

With virtual access to specimens, researchers could peel away the skin of a passenger pigeon to glimpse its circulatory system, a class of third graders could determine a copperhead’s last meal, undergraduate students could 3-D print and compare skulls across a range of frog species and a veterinarian could plan a surgery on a giraffe in a zoo.

“In a time when museums and schools are losing natural history collections and giving up due to costs, we are recognizing the information held in these specimens is only getting more valuable,” said project co-principal investigator Luke Tornabene, assistant professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington and curator of fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

“I think this project is going to help create a renaissance of the importance of natural history collections,” he said.’\

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