Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Halfway Mark- Learning and Improving

The internship is halfway over and there have been quite a few exciting projects and finds in the first 10 weeks. One day, while conserving and cataloging specimens, a furry find was made. Inside a slide, right next to the specimen, was a larval skin of a beetle! How the larval skin got into the slide and how the beetle got out remains a mystery. This is a great example of why the conservation work we are doing with old collections is so important. 

There have been some really nice scans done of microfossils as well. Thanks to the Microscopy and Imaging Facility, we have started 3D printing some of the clearest CT scans here at the museum. It has, however, been a bit of learning curve.

Before you can even think about printing a 3D model, you must first spend time enhancing and editing the 3D image. Here at the American Museum of Natural History we use a program called VGStudio MAX. When a CT scan comes through you hope that the image is clear and that there is little to no sediment infill in the specimen. Even with a perfect scan, it still takes about 2 hours to have a printer-ready specimen. When the scan comes back with infill or "background noise" it can take anywhere from 4-8 hours to edit the image. At first every scan takes 5+ hours and the software can be tricky to get used to. Everyone is different, but I felt comfortable using VGStudio MAX by week 4.

Once you have edited your image, you are ready to start setting up your printing process. One factor we had to look at was which orientation we should print the specimens out for the clearest image. As seen below in the first attempt at printing out AMNH-FI 97614 Hopkinsina magnifica, the bottom model looks a lot nicer and smoother than the one on top.

Another problem is sizing. Because each specimen and scan is different, the scaling settings must be customized depending on the fossil. AMNH-FI 107593 Asterorotalia pulchella printed out too small and had to be redone so all of the details could be seen properly. 

Sometimes everything can be programmed correctly and the printing still go wrong. There were issues with the printer's plastic filament while printing out AMNH-FI 64208 Anomalina pacoraensis which led to this incomplete 3D model.

However, after a few mishaps and mistakes, we are starting to have a nice collection of 3D printed microfossils. 

From Top to Bottom: AMNH-FI 19954 Anomalina mantaensis, AMNH-FI 107593 Asterorotalia pulchella, AMNH-FI 97614 Hopkinsina magnifica

All smiles after printing out this unique foraminifera! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Activities between Summer 2015 and Spring 2016

A lot has happened since the 2015 summer interns left the museum. Two former interns traveled to GSA in Baltimore to present posters on projects completed during their time at the American Museum of Natural History and there is a new intern here for the spring.

Lindsay Walker and Shaun Mahmood both made the trip to the 2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

Lindsay presented a poster titled “Workflow for Conserving and Digitizing Historic Microfossil Collections at the American Museum of Natural History.” Her presentation focused on the conservation efforts and rehousing techniques used by the interns throughout this microfossil project. https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2015AM/webprogram/Paper263981.html

Shaun’s poster presentation, “3D-Printing Microfossils” was focused on the processes used from start to finish in the CT scanning, imaging, and printing of selected holotype microfossils at the museum. https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2015AM/webprogram/Paper265890.html

A student at University of Chicago, Katalina Kimball, presented a poster titled “Live/Dead Comparisons of Ostracodes in Temperate Lakes Reveal Evidence of Humans: Low Fidelity in Impacted Lakes, but High Fidelity in Remediated Lakes,” To add a visual aid to her presentation, Katalina requested an stl file of an ostracod created here by one of our interns, which was then 3D printed at her university. It's great to see how the work being done here is helping out scientists at other institutions.

In order to CT scan and image more microfossils, a new intern is here for 20 weeks from February through June.

Kelsey Barnhill graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in Geology and a minor in Marine Science in December 2015. During her time as an undergraduate she studied abroad at Universidad de Oviedo (where she took her first Paleontology course- In Spanish!), spent a semester at UNC’s field-based Institute of Marine Science, and was a 2-year Division 1 Varsity letter winner in Women’s Fencing. The San Diego native will be spending her summer as a science intern aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus as a member of The Ocean Exploration Trust’s Corps of Exploration. Kelsey will begin working towards her Paleontology M.S. this fall at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology where she will also be cataloging and digitizing part of their invertebrate fossil collection under a research assistantship position.