Scanning Electron Microscope

The Department of Invertebrate Zoology installed a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), in January 2005. It was purchased with an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF MRI 0420726) and a generous bequest from a private donor. The microscope is employed to advance our knowledge and understanding of the natural world, with an emphasis on using the collection resources at SBMNH.

Curator of Malacology Daniel Geiger uses the SEM in his research on micro orchids (pictured) and invertebrates, and trains new users of the apparatus.

Curator of Malacology Dr. Daniel Geiger uses the SEM in his research on miniature orchids (pictured) and invertebrates, and trains new users of the instrument. Photo by Chuck Place.


The SEM is used for a variety of activities. Research projects (description of new species, understanding evolutionary history of organisms, morphological and anatomical studies) by in-house researchers, affiliated students, and visiting scholars are the main use. It is also employed in outreach activities, including an exhibit on SEM at SBMNH (including a printed catalog), museum docent training, and SEM demonstrations to the general public, K-12 schools, and students of higher education. Students are also trained to use the instrument.

The Instrument

Zeiss EVO 40 XVP

  • Tungsten filament, 0.4-30 kV
  • Magnification 7-3,200,000x: usable to 100,000x, in continuous zoom
  • Secondary Electron Detector
  • Scintillation four quadrant Backscatter Electron Detector
  • Variable Pressure Secondary Electron Detector
  • IR chamber scope
  • Variable pressure up to 700 Pa = 0.07 bar
  • 5 axis motorized stage
  • Image size up to 3072x2304 pixels (6.7 MB files)
  • AVI movie capture

Sputter Coater: Cressington 108E with Rotacota rotating planetary stage, Au target

Critical Point Dryer: Tousimis 815A, 4 and 12 slot sample holders

Specimen types

  • Hard specimens (shells, insects, rocks): coated (SE and/or BSD detectors), uncoated (VPSE and/or BSD detector)
  • Dehydrated soft tissue (HMDS, CPD prepared samples): coated or uncoated


Training is provided individually to prospective users. Please contact Daniel Geiger, 805-682-4711 ext. 152 for details. Daniel also operates the instrument for occasional users. Time on the SEM is free of charge for internal Museum use.

External users can rent time on the equipment under the following conditions:

  • Academic projects: $50/h independent operator, must sign a liability document. $130/h SEM operated by SBMNH personnel.
  • Commercial projects: $120/h independent operator, must sign a liability document. $200/h SEM operated by SBMNH personnel.

New independent users are required to receive training for at least two hours, at $130/h (academic) or $200/h (commercial). Small amounts of supplies (stubs, mounting media, solvents) are available from SBMNH and are charged to the investigator. For larger amounts, investigators should provide their own supplies. Data is neither stored nor archived at SBMNH. Each investigator or recipient of data is responsible for their own data. Usage conditions are subject to change at any time and without prior notice.

Top banner photo credit - An undescribed species of Reichenbachia (short-winged mold beetle, Staphylinidae: Pselaphinae).