INTERDEPARTMENTAL LABS: MICROSCOPY AND IMAGING FACILITY

Senior Laboratory Technician
Becky A. Rudolph

Laboratory Technician
Emily T. Griffiths


SEM image of a wasp
SEM image of a wasp

The Interdepartmental Laboratories provide the scientific staff with access to advanced imaging and computing tools that would otherwise be beyond the reach of the individual departments due to both the high acquisition costs and the high levels of expertise necessary to effectively use such tools. A knowledgeable staff maintains the laboratories and provides technology support and training at many levels to all members of the Museum research community. It is the IDL staff's mission to make its expertise base readily available to Museum scientists.

The advanced imaging instruments include a state-of-the-art high-resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM) with associated X-ray microanalysis capabilities, and a confocal laser scanning microscope (CLSM).

The SEM is used to obtain images of Museum specimens at magnifications above those attainable with light microscopy. It is also an analytical tool used to obtain chemical information from microscopic regions of a specimen. The IDL recently added a cathodoluminescence detector system to the SEM, thus providing an additional analytical capability to the scientific community.

The CLSM is an instrument used to image small, transparent, fluorescent specimens. Its strength lies in its ability to obtain clear optical sections of such specimens without the need for mechanical sectioning. The 2-D optical sections can be reconstructed into a 3-D object for final analysis. In addition, the CLSM is capable of imaging small opaque objects using a reflected light signal. Such imaging can provide researchers with valuable quantitative volume and surface measurements that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.

SEM image of spider spinnerets
SEM image of spider spinnerets

The Interdepartmental Laboratories computing lab is equipped with a number of multi-user computers including PC, Mac, and SGI workstations. Image processing and 3-D reconstruction software packages are maintained on these computers so that laboratory staff can assist users with complex image manipulation. A variety of graphics output devices are also maintained in the computer lab and are used extensively by the scientific staff for the purposes of publication and presentation. These devices include a film recorder, a photo-quality digital printer, and a large-format printer used for creating posters for scientific meetings.

The lab also provides the Museum's research community with technology support for scientific information management. The staff offers expertise in Web-based database creation and management for the purposes of disseminating data to the worldwide scientific community.

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