A scientist’s mission to scan every known fish species

In a tiny island laboratory in the northwest corner of Washington, one marine biologist is on a mission to scan every known fish species in the world. Adam Summers, a fish expert at the University of Washington, is creating 3-D models of all known species of fish. He hopes to change the way that scientists and educators look at marine anatomy.

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In a tiny island laboratory in the northwest-most corner of Washington, one marine biologist is on a mission to scan every known fish species in the world.

Adam Summers, a fish expert at the University of Washington, is creating 3-D models of all known species of fish.

He hopes to change the way that scientists and educators look at marine anatomy.

Our environmental reporting partner, EarthFix, has the story.

I've spent a lot of my life on the interface between science and art.

Understanding shape in an aesthetic way, presenting these skeletons in a visually arresting way often leads to new insights.

Why do I like that angle?

Why do I like that color map?

I like that color map because it's bringing out some detail that I later realize is really important.

If it took between, say, 4 and 10 hours to scan a fish with exquisite detail, you'd spend more than a career scanning 33,000 of them.

The big innovation here was the idea to do lots of species at the same time.

What we do is we package as many as 20 species of fishes all at once into a sort of fish burrito and then put them in the micro-CT scanner and get data from all of them all at once.

I've scanned three times as many fish in the last few months as I had scanned in the previous 15 years.

This is an amount of information that's just awe-inspiring, and it really does represent a huge increase in our body of knowledge about one of the most diverse and important group of vertebrates on the planet.