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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Research & Collections SEM Lab
Ceratocorys horrida

For more than 30 years the Scanning Electron Microscopy Lab (SEM Lab) has assisted researchers at the Museum to explore and understand our world at the microscopic level. The SEM Lab is a multi-user, biologic imaging facility available to all the researchers at NMNH. It supports the research interests and conservation efforts of NMNH scientists by providing state-of-the-art instrumentation, training in its use, and assistance in preparing samples for study. The results are first-rate science as well as stunning views of the natural world that surrounds each of us. Take the tour to see this world and learn about how the SEM Lab assists research at The Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Richard Pott
Dr. Richard Pott's examines an archeological sample on the Environmental SEM. See a gallery of images from the database.

A Gallery of SEM Lab Images

The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) scans a beam of electrons across the surface of a sample allowing researchers to visualize the microstructural details of their objects of study. Browse through a gallery of images captured with the SEM to see the beauty behind some of the fascinating research ongoing at The Museum of Natural History.

Spiders through the SEM
Spiders through the SEM

See Spiders Through the SEM

Spiders are a large (more than 38,000 described species worldwide), distinct, and widespread group. The earliest evidence of spiders comes from a 380 million year old (Devonian) fossil. Spiders occur in many types of habitats and are often very abundant. Typical temperate habitats may support up to 800 individual spiders per square meter. Point estimates of spider diversity suggest that more than 600 species may be found in a single hectare of tropical forest.

Unique derived characters that define spiders include cheliceral venom glands (rarely lost, e.g., the family Uloboridae), abdominal spinnerets, and the modification of the male pedipalps into sperm transfer organs. Take a visual tour into the world of spider research.

Microscopy of dinoflagellates
Microscopy of dinoflagellates

Microscopy of Dinoflagellates

In view of the central role dinoflagellates play in marine waters, research is of great importance because of the accelerating pace of environmental degradation worldwide. This research effort is aimed at developing state-of-the-art digitized images of marine specimens in the Museum's extensive collections. This site will illustrate the surface of specimens of minuscule, unicellular, marine plants. Image-rich pages will include a wealth of morphological information of species taken at high magnifications (1000 to 5000 x) with the SEM. This instrument allows the identification of a group of organisms that are in critical need of understanding their biodiversity in the oceans.

Learn more about the examination of the Sikh artifacts.
Learn more about the examination of the Sikh artifacts.

Microscopy Aids Conservation and Exhibit of Sikh Artifacts

Microscopic examination reveals much about an objects' history, structure, previous handling and stability. The microscopic examination that was carried out prior to display of the Sikh artifacts served as a visual guide for conservators in their choices of conservation methods. Many of the artifacts that were generously loaned by private collectors have never been examined before. Thus the examination provided the owners with the information about their objects' composition and based on findings - recommendations for the most appropriate handling and storage after the objects are removed from the exhibit.Several of the spectacular artifacts were examined - an armor set dated for mid 19th century and Rumala, a clothes for the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib

Special thanks to Drs. Maria Faust, Jeremy Miller, Robert Robbins, Paul Taylor and Hanna Szczepanowska for providing material, guidance and support for the development of this site. Without their efforts this would not have been possible

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