- Title: UNITED KINGDOM: 3D scans turn fossils into rock stars
- Date: 3rd September 2013
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (AUGUST 22, 2013) (REUTERS) CLOSE OF 3D MODEL OF AMMONITE BEING ROTATED ON TABLET COMPUTER SCREEN
- Embargoed: 18th September 2013 13:00
- Location: United Kingdom
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Environment
- Reuters ID: LVAEEW33J54WUSKMRCW44TSLQ9RL
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- Story Text: The world's first 3D virtual fossil collection has been launched online, giving academics and keen amateurs alike the chance to study thousands of specimens in exceptional detail. No longer confined to dusty museum drawers and cabinets, the fossils were painstakingly scanned using state-of-the-art technology and released to the public in an online database recently, bringing a new dimension to palaeontology.
The British Geological Survey (BGS) oversaw the mammoth task of scanning and photographing thousands of fossils, featuring nearly every type of fossil found in the UK. They can be browsed and downloaded for free on a computer, tablet or phone.
The GB3D Type Fossils Online project was funded by publicly-funded British education body Jisc (formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee).
Team leader Dr. Mike Howe, chief curator at the British Geological Survey (BGS), says the project is the first of its kind.
"There have been a number of projects that have laser-scanned or have digitised fossils in one technique or another. They've mostly been research related to a specific problem or topic and most of those are hidden in research papers or archived at local universities and so forth. Nobody has attempted to put out for the public and for the whole academic community a large collection of 3D fossil models, so this is the first one world-wide that has ever been attempted," said Howe.
Dr. Michela Contessi, digitation technician for BGS, says it takes approximately ten scans of a fossil to capture all the necessary information.
"It depends how much information you want and how the fossil it is like, in this case it is completely 3D ammonite, so you want to take a 3D scan and that will involve at least ten scans to capture all the details," she said.
The BGS carried out the work in collaboration with partners at the National Museum of Wales, the Sedgwick Museum Cambridge, the University Museum of Natural History Oxford (OUMNH), and the Curators' Group, which represents a number of regional museums.
The scans will allow palaeontologists to print 3D replicas of the fossils. Monica Price, head of earth collections at OUMNH, said it could soon be possible to print large dinosaur fossils. Before long an individual might be able to produce a life-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex replica - provided they have enough space to do so.
"You can actually scan quite large objects, so yes that is definitely coming. The challenge is reproducing all those bones. It is quite a complicated process building up your scan, filling in the holes where the laser doesn't go," said Price.
The team say the project will provide an outstanding resource to geologists at all levels - researchers, university students, school students and amateurs for years to come. It will also reduce access costs and the need for palaeontologists to handle original fossils.
When the project is complete at the end of the year almost 20,000 species will have been copied.
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