Beamtime and resulting SRμCT data are a valuable resource for researchers of a broad scientific community in life sciences. Most research groups, however, are only interested in a specific organ and use only a fraction of their data. The rest of the data usually remains untapped. By using a new collaborative approach, the NOVA project (Network for Online Visualization and synergistic Analysis of tomographic data) aims to demonstrate, that more efficient use of the valuable beam time is possible by coordinated research on different organ systems. The biological partners in the project cover different scientific aspects and thus serve as model community for the collaborative approach. As proof of principle, different aspects of insect head morphology will be investigated (e.g., biomechanics of the mouthparts, and neurobiology with the topology of sensory areas). This effort is accomplished by development of advanced analysis tools for the ever-increasing quantity of tomographic datasets. In the preceding project ASTOR, we already successfully demonstrated considerable progress in semi-automatic segmentation and classification of internal structures. Further improvement of these methods is essential for an efficient use of beam time and will be refined in the current NOVAproject. Significant enhancements are also planned at PETRA III beamline p05 to provide all possible contrast modalities in x-ray imaging optimized to biological samples, on the reconstruction algorithms, and the tools for subsequent analyses and management of the data. All improvements made on key technologies within this project will in the long-term be equally beneficial for all users of tomography instrumentations.
The use of new technologies, especially computer-based three dimensional reconstructions and micro-computer tomography (μ-CT) have greatly improved and facilitated the detailed investigation of insect anatomy. Optimal results in morphological work aiming at phylogenetic reconstruction can be obtained with a combined application of different techniques such as histology, scanning electron microscopy, and μ-CT. The use of μ-CT greatly enhances the efficiency of the acquisition of detailed anatomical data and allows a broad taxon sampling in phylogenetic studies partly or entirely based on morphological characters. A disadvantage of phase contrasted μ-CT images is the poor differentiation of different tissue types. This problem can be overcome by the use of stable low energy photon beams as available at the beamline BW2 of the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Hamburg (DESY). Synchrotron-radiation-based μ-CT data (SR μ-CT) obtained with this approach are an ideal basis for highly efficient three dimensional reconstructions of high quality.