3D Sneak Peek at ECHO

Over two days of formative evaluation, more than 300 guests at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center previewed a new 3D guided tour of  the Lake Champlain Basin. Nina Ridhibhinyo, ECHO’s group  programs manager, guided these eager participants through space and time as part of a 25-minute 3D presentation on the history of dam development and flooding on the Winooski River. They explored Vermont’s wetlands and flood zones, delved into the historic floods of 1927 and 2011, and visited mills, hydroelectric, and flood control dams throughout Vermont.

Nina Ridhibhinyo narrates  a 3D guided tour of the Lake Champlain Basin.  (Photo courtesy of Audience Viewpoints Consulting.)

Nina Ridhibhinyo leads a 3D tour of the Lake Champlain Basin.                                                    (Photo courtesy of Audience Viewpoints Consulting.)

This 3D visualization tool provides a powerful way for our visitors to explore the geography of the Lake Champlain Basin as part of an immersive 3D experience. By layering aerial imagery and geographic data on top of a digital model, ECHO guests can now soar over the mountains, above the streams, and through the valleys of the Basin.

 “As a small lake aquarium and science center in a watershed that serves a total population of only 600,000 people, ECHO could not have imagined using 3D technology to develop awareness and stewardship of freshwater ecosystems programming without the support of the LakeViz3D project, a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant,” said Julie Silverman, ECHO’s director of new. With NSF’s on-going support, ECHO plans to roll out new 3D public and school programs this fall and winter

3D Movie of Lake Tahoe Set to Make a Big Splash This Summer

This summer visitors to the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) will have the unique opportunity to “Go Jump in the Lake” without even getting wet.  A new 3D movie, produced as part of the LakeViz project, will dive under the water’s surface to observe the different organisms that live in Lake Tahoe and to explore the physics that governs the lake habitat.

The movie, “Let’s Go Jump in the Lake,” will feature unique footage of Lake Tahoe and its inhabitants, all in 3D. Stunning time-lapse sequences show changes in the lake throughout the seasons. TERC divers have captured subsurface video that includes kokanee salmon spawning, the extent of invasive species such as watermilfoil and Asian clams, schools of native fish, and underwater research projects. For close-up shots of the animals that live in Lake Tahoe, TERC set up aquaria for fish, Mysis shrimp, and zooplankton such as Daphnia. Computer generated animations are used to illustrate concepts—such as lake mixing—that  are difficult to capture on film.

Steve Andersen with Omnidual Media is filming and managing the post-production of the film. Since the movie will be presented in 3D, all the video equipment is specialized for the shoot. Steve has an arsenal of tools including several UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) designed to carry two cameras for the challenging 3D aerial shots.


3D Videographer Steve Andersen uses an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle equipped with dual cameras for 3D video of Lake Tahoe

“I’ve had to build most of the camera mounts to shoot 3D, both above and below water”, says Andersen.  “I designed a special stabilizing mount for the UAV to properly balance and control two synced cameras. This took several months of trial and error to finally get a working system.”

He has also built several underwater mounts for UC Davis TERC divers Brant Allen and Katie Webb to shoot the underwater scenes. Much of the video will be shot using the latest GoPro cameras and Sony’s NEX cameras placed in Steve’s custom designed 3D mounts. Steve will also be creating the 3D computer generated animations used throughout the film.


UC Davis TERC divers gather underwater film footage in Lake Tahoe for the new 3D movie

“Let’s Go Jump in the Lake” is currently in production with a release tentatively scheduled for August 2014. When complete, it will be showing at the Tahoe Science Center (open from 1-5 Tuesday – Friday).  It will also be available on the 3DH2O website, the LakeViz project’s library of resources for freshwater ecosystem education using stereoscopic 3D and augmented reality visualizations.

3DH2O is live!

We’ve launched the LakeViz project website.  Check it out here:  http://3dh2o.org

This site will serve as a resource for 3D visualization and lake ecosystem information both education professionals and the public.

For professional audiences, we’ll archive the lessons learned about producing and using 3D visualizations as educational tools; facilitation training manuals and docent guides for our hands-on lake science activities; as well as open-source software and earth science data.  Public audiences will have access to high-resolution 3D media, informal educational activities and mobile web apps that bring lake ecosystems to life and promote stewardship.

We’ve started adding some materials and are working on the finalizing all the rest.  Stay tuned!


Middle School Students Explore Lake Tahoe’s Aquatic Food Web

What would happen if all the zooplankton were removed from Lake Tahoe?  More than fifty middle school students explored this and other compelling lake ecology questions during a food web activity at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) in January. Working with TERC staff and Kevin Beals, a Curriculum Specialist at the Lawrence Hall of Science, students investigated the complicated interdependence of organisms in lakes.  They began by modeling scientific observations using an ‘I Wonder / I Notice / It Reminds Me Of’ framework to analyze 2D and 3D images of aquatic organisms like Daphnia and the non-native Mysis shrimp


Student visitors at TERC engage in visual inquiry of lake organisms

Then students worked together to create a model of the Lake Tahoe aquatic food web.  Starting with the lake producers (algae and plants), each pair of students reasoned out where their assigned organisms reside in the web.  The end result was, like the actual Tahoe food web, quite complex.


Kevin Beals, a Curriculum Specialist at the Lawrence Hall of Science, works with a group of middle school students to build a model of Lake Tahoe’s food web

Taking it further, the students made predictions about how the removal or addition of one organism in the ecosystem could have an enormous impact on the whole system.  Kevin presented examples of ecologic challenges that Lake Tahoe managers have faced in the past.  For instance in the 1960s, lake managers introduced Mysis shrimp to Lake Tahoe with the intention of increasing the fish population.  It turned out that the fish rarely ate the Mysis, but Mysis did eat Daphnia, a primary food source for Tahoe’s native fish population, resulting in the opposite effect as intended.  Students began to understand how even well-intentioned ecological interventions can have unexpected and sometimes negative consequences.

The students reported that they really enjoyed the Food Web activity because they were able to ‘actually do something’ and they liked thinking through the chain of cause and effect in the same way that scientists do.  For future iterations of the activity, we plan to integrate viewscopes and other 3D visualizations to further explore how 3D technology can be used to impact STEM engagement with and understanding of freshwater ecosystems.

In addition, many scientists, like this group at the University of Chicago use 3D (or higher dimension) food web models to better uncover the myriad connections between species and more accurately predict how ecosystems will respond to changes like species invasion or climate change.  Perhaps future versions of the Lake Tahoe food web activity could incorporate 3D lake food webs to test whether 3D models are more effective than 2D webs at fostering student understanding of freshwater ecology.

Sandbox Mountain

Augmented Reality Sandbox Images Now in NSF Multimedia Gallery

There are 19 images in the series:  each image has a detailed description for what aspect of the sandbox experience the user is viewing .   The first image can be found here: http://www.nsf.gov/news/mmg/mmg_disp.jsp?med_id=75573&from=mmg  

To view the rest of the images either click on the next image (the link to the next image can usually be found at the end of the 2nd or 3rd paragraph in the current image’s description).  Or, search for Augmented Reality Sandbox in the gallery’s search: http://www.nsf.gov/news/mmg/mmg_search.jsp