Guam NSF EPSCoR has installed a new Micro-Computer Tomography (CT) scanner at the University of Guam—making the university one of the few educational institutions within the Asia-Pacific region equipped with an instrument of this caliber.
The acquisition of this instrument was made possible by the support of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) under Grant Number OIA-1946352.
Similar to those used in hospitals, a Micro-CT scanner offers a non-invasive way of studying organisms by taking X-ray images of a specimen from various angles and combining them to create three-dimensional images.
The scanner, which was installed in August 2023, will be used for projects associated with the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO) Biorepository, a physical and cyber natural history collection operated by Guam NSF EPSCoR that holds records and images of marine organisms found throughout the Pacific and other locales.
Using the scanner, researchers can visualize the inner structures of various organisms such as corals, sponges, mollusks, shrimp, or fish. Scans of different specimens can provide a deeper understanding of marine life in the Marianas and the region by offering valuable insight into internal anatomy and how species differ from one another.
“You can couple that information with the information about the ecology of the organism and their genetic relationships. By doing that, you can build a much stronger understanding of the biodiversity in this region,” said Guam NSF EPSCoR Principal Investigator and Project Director Terry Donaldson, Ph.D.
Staff from the GECCO Biorepository trained from Aug. 28 – 30 to familiarize themselves with the scanner. During the sessions, they learned how to prepare specimens for a scan, reconstruct the created files, and process the data.
“One of our goals regarding the scanner is training more people on how to use it. We want to increase capacity and teach students and researchers how to make the most of this machine,” said Diego Vaz, Ph.D., associate curator of the GECCO Biorepository.
The scanner will enhance collaborative activity, promoting growth in marine taxonomy, ecology, and other fields of research.
“Having the scanner is going to open a lot of doors for what we can do here. We’re excited to have this instrument because it increases our footprint,” said Donaldson. “The installation of the scanner in a facility directly adjacent to a coral reef ecosystem allows for the creation of a Micro-CT Research Node that will draw researchers from all over the region, and indeed, the world, to utilize the instrument in a unique setting. The Marine Laboratory and the University of Guam will become much more visible, and more and more researchers will want to work with us which means collaborations, publications, and the advancement of science.”