The oVert Thematic Collections Network
· 10083 Specimens
· Creator: Blackburn, David
· Managed by: David Blackburn, Edward Stanley
The oVert (openVertebrate) Thematic Collection Network (TCN) will generate and serve high-resolution digital three-dimensional data for internal anatomy across vertebrate diversity. At a network of digitization centers across the US, we will CT-scan >20,000 fluid-preserved specimens representing >80% of the living genera of vertebrates. This will provide broad coverage for exploration and research on all major groups of vertebrates. We will also generate contrast-enhanced scans to reveal soft tissues and organs for a majority of the living vertebrate families. This collection of digital imagery and three-dimensional volumes will be open for exploration, download, and use to address questions related to the discovery of new species, documenting patterns of anatomical diversity and growth, and testing hypotheses of function and evolution. These new media will provide unprecedented global access to valuable specimens in US museum collections. Our network of leading US vertebrate collections will develop best practices and guidelines for high-throughput CT-scanning, including efficient workflows, preferred resolutions, and archival formats that optimize the variety of downstream applications. We will train museum specialists on the generation, curation, and distribution of 3D data, researchers in using 3D anatomical data, and high school and undergraduate students in the tools for creating 3D anatomical models. To drive the use of these digital specimens by K12 STEM educators, we will conduct teacher-driven workshops that generate freely available lesson plans focused on specific science standards that are based on digital and printed 3D models of specimens in US museum collections. Data generated by oVert will serve as a catalyst for diverse research projects focused on understanding the vertebrate morphological diversity and dramatically increase the accessibility of specimens housed in US scientific collections. These anatomical phenotypes represent a common currency that facilitates integration across the fields of taxonomy, evolution, developmental biology, comparative physiology, functional anatomy, paleontology, and ecology. We will use x-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning to generate high-resolution digital anatomical data, represented as both 2D image stacks and 3D volumes and surfaces, which can be distributed globally through the on-line data portal MorphoSource. With these 3D digital specimens, US and international research communities will be able to (1) diagnose, describe, and infer patterns of relationships among both living and extinct vertebrates, (2) test hypotheses of morphological evolution such as patterns of disparity, modularity, and phenotype-environment correlations, (3) develop structure-function models for testing hypotheses about morphological adaptations related to, e.g., feeding and locomotion, and (4) explore relationships between brain and nervous system anatomy and both sensory and musculoskeletal function. We will upgrade the interface and functionality of MorphoSource, an on-line data depository for 3D data of biological specimens, improving its capacity to explore media, capture standardized metadata, ingest legacy data from previous and existing projects, supply media information to data aggregators including iDigBio, and engage educators and students. We will support training workshops both on-site at participating institutions and national society meetings of scientists and educators.