GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 310-8
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


BOYER, Doug M.1, GUNNELL, Gregg F.2, MCGEARY, Timothy3, RYAN, Timothy4 and WINCHESTER, Julie M.1, (1)Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, Box 90383, 130 Science Drive, Biological Sciences Building, Durham, NC 27708, (2)Division of Fossil Primates, Duke Lemur Center, Duke University, Durham, NC 27705, (3)Duke University Library Information Technology Services, Duke University, box 90196, Bostock Library, Durham, NC 27708, (4)Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802,

Improvements in 3D scanning technology and computing power over the past several decades have led to increased use of 3D data and more powerful, data driven approaches in comparative biology and paleontology. The transition to a digital approach brings up questions about best practices and requirements for data access and archiving. Minimally, all studied 3D datasets of natural history objects should be archived in flexibly searchable databases in order to ensure their availability and maximize their discovery and reuse. Achieving this goal poses challenges concerning implementation, governance and participation. NSF and Duke University have recently committed major long term support to MorphoSource (, a web-based virtual museum and 3D data repository that adheres to recently established 3D file format and quality standards. Researchers and museum collections staff can upload 3D data of specimens derived from any scanning modality. Each 3D media file is associated with a specimen record linked to NSF’s iDigBio data portal whenever possible, and assigned both a DOI and a globally unique identifier. For museum curators, allowing or requiring 3D data on specimens to be deposited in MorphoSource can greatly facilitate curation of rapidly accumulating scans of their collections. Additionally, doing so contributes to a growing archive where aggregated data on specimens can be discovered and accessed by users who may lack prior knowledge of the museum’s collection strengths. In this way, adding to MorphoSource helps increase the actual and demonstrable use of physical collections. MorphoSource is increasingly endorsed by major museums and journals as an appropriate solution for hosting researcher-generated 3D data. In fact, the American Museum of Natural History, Department of Mammalogy now requires data deposition on MorphoSource. Subsequent updates will further align MorphoSource with cutting-edge digital curation practices as developed by library and museum communities. This will allow for new more sustainable models of storing and preserving data, such as federating storage across multiple locations. As part of this model, MorphoSource is partnering with other institutions to create a cloud-like consortium of data nodes.