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Aves 3D is a National Science Foundation funded online database of three-dimensional digital surface models of the various bones that make up the skeleton of birds. Aves 3D aims to provide as wide of a representation of living and extinct bird species as possible, and we are adding new scans to the database on a weekly basis. Scans are generated through non-contact laser surface scanning at the College of the Holy Cross, and onsite at the various institutions whose collections are being scanned for the database, including the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, and the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University.

The three-dimensional digital models of bird bones and skeletons are accessible to scientists, educators, and the public at large. The Aves 3D database allows for the rapid global dissemination of three-dimensional digital data on common as well as rare and potentially fragile species, in a format ready for a variety of quantitative and qualitative analyses, including geometric morphometric analysis and finite element analysis. We hope that the anatomical data available on Aves 3D will facilitate a diversity of research and educational projects, and will lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of bird anatomy, diversity, function, and evolution. In addition, the Aves 3D database serves as an online digital archive of museum collections, which helps to both increase the use of these important resources, and at the same time helps to diminish the physical handling of these often fragile and unique resources for analytical purposes that are served well enough by the database.

A unique aspect of the Aves 3D database is that its digital holdings are largely produced through undergraduate student research. Scans are generated, edited, and analyzed by students at Holy Cross, supervised by the PIs, scanning technician, and external affiliated researchers, for a wide variety of functional and phylogenetic studies. Skeletal scans generated for each of these research projects are deposited in Aves 3D, and contribute to database growth.

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