Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Project takes fish collection into the digital age


Novel application of MRI leads to new tools for online dissection of preserved fishes

The same medical technology used to image brain tumors and torn knee ligaments is now taking the field of marine biology to a new dimension: anyone with Internet access will be able to look at fish as never before.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded researchers at the University of California at San Diego’s (UCSD) Keck Center for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography a grant to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create a high-resolution, 3-dimensional, online catalog of fishes.

"This project will augment the existing Scripps Marine Vertebrate Collection by using a new tool and a new way to present information about fishes," said collection curator Philip Hastings. "It’s part of our general effort to make the collection more available to a wider audience."

UCSD School of Medicine’s Lawrence Frank, who leads the biomedical applications program at the Keck fMRI Center, will direct the project. He said the undertaking will further push development of MRI technology for unique applications in humans as well as other species.

"This project also shows the growing role of cutting-edge imaging and computer technologies in increasing our access to information about not only marine biology, but biodiversity and global ecology as well," said Frank.

The five-year, $2.5 million Digital Fish Library project will support development and application of new MRI technology that, in conjunction with novel data analysis and visualization methods, penetrates soft body tissue to provide 3-D images of physiological structures.

"The project uses digital imaging technology to open the inner workings of vertebrate fish without destroying precious specimens," said Manfred Zorn, program director in NSF’s Division of Biological Infrastructure, which funded the project. "It will also open the collection to researchers around the world, who will be able to access images via the internet."

The plan is to image the internal anatomies of the entire range of fishes, said Hastings. "Capturing the variation across all fishes will open the door to a range of interesting questions about how species differ. You can imagine comparing the brain of a coral-reef fish that relies on vision with one from the deep sea that relies mainly on smell, or comparing the muscles of deep-sea fishes that regularly migrate to the surface with those that stay in the deep."

This variation is part of the challenge, as standard MRI is designed to image the anatomy of humans, who slide inside large cylindrical "coils" that capture data that is then processed to create detailed computer images.

"Fish come in a variety of odd shapes, so we have to develop new hardware to image them," said Frank. "Engineers at the center are building special coils for fish. We are also working on new ways of collecting data, because fish tissue can be very different from the tissues we typically image. By tailoring the technology, we will further optimize our use of MRI, whether we’re imaging cardiac muscle, brain tissue, cartilage or fish."

The technology will enable researchers to acquire and process high-resolution data of various fish anatomies that can be placed on the Internet. Using this powerful and versatile imaging tool, scientists, students and anyone in the public will be able to digitally probe and dissect these fishes from a desktop computer anywhere in the world.

Scripps’ Marine Vertebrate, or "Fish," Collection, is among the largest and most comprehensive collections of its kind, containing 90 percent of all known families of fishes. With more than 2 million specimens, the collection is used by researchers around the world to investigate the systematics, biodiversity, physiology, ecology and conservation of fishes. Through the Digital Fish Library project, coordinators will image at least one of every 482 fish families in the world.

Project coordinators will create a resource that allows scientists to remotely study the world’s fish species, from the exotic to the mundane. In collaboration with the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the scientists will also develop the "Digital Dissection Tool," an educational program for high-school students that capitalizes on the interactive scientific research aspects of the project.

"By creating the Digital Fish Library, we’re developing a tool that stimulates students to think independently and naturally leads them into questions they might want to investigate," Frank said. "We hope to design an educational model that spurs students’ interests and teaches them how to conduct research. It’s not just teaching them about fish anatomy or physiology; it’s teaching them about magnetic resonance imaging, computation and visualization."

Education modules within the Digital Dissection Tool will cover the basics of MRI, digital image processing of 3-D MRI data as well as aspects of marine biology. Under the guidance of co-investigator Cheryl Peach of the Birch Aquarium, elements of the project also will be incorporated into UCSD’s Academic Connections Program, an intensive, three-week summer learning experience for college-bound high-school students.

Hastings said virtual dissections will help preserve fish specimens, unlike traditional, physical dissections that often destroy them. That is even more important with rare specimens. In a global environment in which marine species are being threatened by overfishing, pollution, climate warming and other risks, such resources have become increasingly important, he said.

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>