BOZEMAN, Mont. When you have dinosaur fossils in your basement and the hospital down the street does CT scans for you, you get calls from researchers around the world. Especially when your computer can handle 3-D photos and you can send digital images over the Internet. That's what Jack and Celeste Horner have found at the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman.
Jack is curator of paleontology. His wife, Celeste, runs the 3-D Imaging Laboratory and the Histology Lab. Together, they assist dinosaur researchers from all over the globe who study the museum's fossils or need its sophisticated technology.
The museum has a 3-D laser scanner and at least eight computers for manipulating 3-D images. Celeste can scan the leg of a Tyrannosaurus rex, for example, and show how it might move if it were part of a live dinosaur. She can scan a sinus cavity of a duck-billed dinosaur so mechanical engineering students can make models of the empty spaces.
"There aren't but a couple of places in the United States that have this kind of facility. That's why people like Emily could come here." said Jack Horner, noting that everything in the museum's paleontology budget -- except his salary -- is donated by corporations or individuals.
Emily Rayfield is a scientist from the University of Cambridge in England. She contacted the Horners a couple of years ago because of her interest in the skull of a meat-eating dinosaur from the late Jurassic Period. The Museum of the Rockies houses the skull of an Allosaurus fragilis excavated in 1991 in northern Wyoming. Uncrushed and almost one meter long, it was ideal for her research.
"The way Jack and Celeste helped with this work was by providing access to the skull of Big Al," Rayfield said. "More importantly, they arranged for the skull to be CT scanned at the local hospital and oversaw the whole proceedings....Their input was absolutely crucial to the success of the project."