Wildlife Conservation Changing Through Virtual Reality
Wildlife conservation is being shaken up a bit by virtual reality as it’s assisting researchers throughout the world in assessing the conditions of environments and species as though the researcher was right there.
The initial usage has been to better comprehend the endangered jaguars environment located in the Peruvian Amazon.
Researchers are using this information to create better statistical and mathematical models that are able to predict where the jaguars are and how many there will be including the trends in population and potential threats they may face as well. This same approach has been utilized at the Great Barrier Reef as well.
Jaguars are classified as “near threatened”, however, since researchers don’t have enough information on jaguars, it hurts their ability to help conserve the species.
Researchers at the Lupunaluz Foundation and the Queensland University of Technology have partnered to recreate parts of the Amazon by putting together lots of 360-degree footage.
The footage is going to help researchers as well as policy makers across the world, to wear a VR headset and see what it’s like to be in certain areas of the world for certain animals.
It’s a very novel study as it combines virtual reality with knowledge from across the world and lots of data to create solid predictive models of jaguar populations, movements, and actions.
Professor Kerrie Mengersen, whose a professor at the Queensland University of Technology, was in charge of this expedition.
She said, “Because we can’t take these experts to these inaccessible places, how could we take these places to them?”
They used 360-degree video cameras that included devices to record sound and 6 GoPro Hero 4 cameras. Associate Professor at Queensland University of Technology, Tomasz Bednarz, said, “We had a series of 360-degree camera systems, like hacked versions of GoPro used to capture video. We also had recording systems to capture the sounds of the environment from all directions.”
Mengersen said, “The experts needed to know about the type of rocks to make any judgements about habitat suitability for the wallabies, and it is that degree of small scale detail that was really hard to obtain in our computer generated environments. But immersive environments using 360 degree photos and video can give us that.”
The VR footage that was obtained in the Amazon has helped experts to locate tree species that jaguars would go to often or fruiting species that attracted their prey. The information gathered in this VR study is going to help to establish “jaguar corridors” or safe zones with Panthera, a big cat charity.
Dr. Megan Saunders is a marine ecologist in the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. She said, “It has the potential to explain to people the importance of preserving the environment. These tools can bring the natural world to people. Virtual reality has the potential bring usually inaccessible areas to people who have the power to make decisions and achieve positive change”.