Ann Arbor — The University of Michigan is partnering to create a digital encyclopedia of thousands of 3-D vertebrate specimens.

The Ann Arbor school says a $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant will launch oVert, a new initiative to scan about 20,000 vertebrates and make the data-rich, 3-D images available to researchers, educators, students and the public.

The University of Michigan is one of 16 research institutions included in the grant.

The name oVert, short for openVertebrate, complements other foundation-sponsored museum digitization efforts. University of Michigan researcher Priscilla Tucker says it “opens the doors to rare and endangered species that are often difficult to study.”

University of Michigan will contribute scans from more than 3,500 of its Museum of Zoology specimens.

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