Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Scientists Could Learn from More Than 25,000 'Digitized' Fish Species

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Scientists Could Learn from More Than 25,000 'Digitized' Fish Species

Article excerpt

Adam Summers strives toward an unusual goal: to run every fish in the world through a scanner.

It may sound a bit like a high school prank, but the work couldn't be more serious. Dr. Summers intends to digitize every fish known to man - more than 25,000 species - via computer tomography (CT) scanning. The project, researchers say, could change the way marine biologists conduct research.

Summers is a professor of biology at the University of Washington, specializing in biomechanics. But he may be better known as the "fabulous fish guy" who advised Pixar on fish movement for the movies "Finding Nemo" and "Finding Dory."

In November, Summers raised $340,000 to install a small CT scanner at Friday Harbor Laboratories, which is owned by the University of Washington and located on San Juan Island. CT scans can cost up to $2,000 per image, so Summers began uploading his scans for free on the Open Science Framework.

"If you get a 3-D reconstruction, you can actually look through the animal and see the different components of varying tissue density," Jelle Atema, a professor of biology at Boston University, says in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor.

Summers' labor of love was warmly received. He launched a formal project with an ambitious goal: to create a single, collaborative database with 3-D images of every extant fish. And with new techniques, such as multiple specimen scanning, this ambitious project may actually be possible.

"It wasn't just a joke anymore. We could actually say it and have a hope of actually getting every fish scanned," Summers told the Associated Press.

Summers has invited other scientists to use his scanner, or add their own scans to the index. All images will be freely available, allowing researchers to analyze otherwise inaccessible specimens.

"Here you have a digitized version of these museum specimens - although I have to admit that the resolution, and the kinds of things you can see, are to some degree limited," says Dr. …

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