Over 15 institutions led by the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida are collaborating to create a database of high resolution 3D scans of vertebrates. The initiative is called oVert, short for openVertebrate and is funded by a $2.5 million grant by the National Science Foundation. The project is an effort to make 3D imagery available to researchers, educators, students and the general public.
Project co-principal investigator Luke Tornabene says, "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. I think this project is going to help create a renaissance of the importance of natural history collections."
Through the database, students will be able to 3D print skulls of various invertebrates for comparison, study the last meals of some of the scanned specimens, or look into the innards of the animals. The database will also allow veterinarians to plan ahead for surgeries on exotic animals, such as giraffes. The program plans to scan over 20,000 animal specimens, and make them available for easy consumption on MorphoSource, a portal maintained by Duke University, for researchers to share their 3D data.