The machine, a Nikon XTH 225 ST 2x computed tomography (CT) scanner, has been set up in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. It will be used for palaeobiology research, examining fossil specimens, with plans to extend its use more widely within the College as well as by other research groups across the University. Longer term, it will also be made available for external access.
"Our new state-of-the-art micro-CT scanner is enormously exciting for research at Birmingham. It will drive a step-change in the palaeobiology research we can do here on campus, and allow us to pursue exciting new research directions."Professor Richard Butler, Director of Research, College of Life and Environmental Sciences
Initially, the scanner will support research into fossil vertebrates from the Middle Jurassic Period, found on the Isle of Skye, in northwest Scotland. Researchers in GEES are working with National Museums Scotland and the American Museum of Natural History on small vertebrate fossils encased within 167-million-year-old dolomite rock.
Using the CT scanner, the team can ‘extract’ the fossils digitally, gaining new insights into the evolution of modern animals such as mammals and lizards, and the evolution of Jurassic ecosystems.
In a second project, the scanner will be used in research led by Dr Sam Giles, examining fossilised soft tissue to reconstruct brain evolution in early fish and patterns of extinction and recovery in the Devonian Period.
Richard Butler, Professor of Palaeobiology and Director of Research in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, said: “Our new state-of-the-art micro-CT scanner is enormously exciting for research at Birmingham.
“This is going to drive a step-change in the palaeobiology research we can do here on campus, and will allow us to pursue exciting new research directions and answer major questions about ancient life, from studies of the oldest fossilised brains to the diversity of dinosaur ecosystems, the origins of mammals, and the evolution of breathing mechanisms in birds.”