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Computed Tomography applications for museum research

oVert Figure 1

High Resolution Computed Tomography, also known as X-ray microtomography/ nanotomography, is a nondestructive imaging technique that allows the ultrahigh-fidelity reconstruction and visualization of external and internal features of non-living objects. This technique has the potential to revolutionize collections and collections-based research, and has many applications in an ever-growing range of biological systems. Although HRCT has traditionally been limited to visualizing denser material (bone, fossil etc.), improved hardware and new contrast-enhancing techniques now allow this technology to visualize many different types of soft anatomy in exquisite detail.

The University of Florida Nanoscale Research Facility operates a Phoenix V|Tome|X M dual-tube nano-CT system, a flexible machine that is capable of scanning samples of a range of sizes and densities. The Museum uses this system extensively for research, and has scanned everything from tiny bird lice insects to fossil alligator skulls.

     Chaperina fusca tongue

Processing CT data at the 3D lab

The rich datasets produced by this system often need extensive post-processing. The 3D Lab contains four high-end segmentation computers with a range of reconstruction and 3D editing software, including VGStudioMax 3.3, a powerful voxel-analysis software package from Volume Graphics. We offer introductory, intermediate and advanced CT segmentation workshops each semester, and a graduate level class, ZOO6927 CT for Biologists, is offered every year in the fall. Please check availability of the 3D lab resources here, and contact Edward Stanley to arrange time on the schedule.

Recovering CT data from UF specimens

The Florida Museum of Natural History is the lead institution of the oVert Thematic Collections network, a multi-institution, NSF-funded initiative that is digitizing and sharing CT data from every vertebrate genus available in U.S. collections. The resulting tomogram stacks and select shape files are freely available on Morphosource.