Thursday, October 25, 2018

Summer Up North

My whole life I have always sought out adventure. From studying abroad in Australia and New Zealand, to vacationing in Costa Rica, my love for travel and my curiosity for nature has taken me around the globe. So this past summer when I was given the opportunity to explore I went to, wait for it, Michigan! But what seemed like an ordinary place was actually a hidden gem, full of giant sand dunes and crystal-clear lakes. I spent 3 months hiking, kayaking, boating, and even trying my luck at mountain biking. Although I was only working at a souvenir shop, I gained some valuable insight about trying new things and meeting different people. 

One really interesting thing I learned while in Michigan was a movement to shut down the Line 5 Pipeline, an oil line that runs under the straits of Mackinac (connects lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula). This pipeline, built in 1953, was not built to last 60 years and is at risk of bursting any day, sending millions of gallons of oil into the Great Lakes. 

I am thankful to have joined the Conservation of Marine Resources Creative Inquiry team because it has fueled my passion to save the environment, both our salt and freshwater ecosystems. In the past month I earned my SCUBA certification, something I hope will enable me to dive (literally) into more research. Exciting things are coming this way!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Summer in the Marshalls

Most of my life growing up was in the Marshall Islands, so it is only fitting that my last summer in college I got spend time there, working on a project centered on communicating climate change. The island I grew up on has amazing reefs but climate change threatens their health. These impacts will be devastating to not only the reefs but the people that depend on them. To promote student engagement with this issue, I collected 360 reef imagery at spots throughout the summer. These will then be used to create interactive websites and 360 timelapse videos.

Putting these images into a 360 VR experience will enable people to explore the reef they otherwise are unlikely to visit. One of my spots can be seen here: 

These snorkels were long, but often featured amazing marine life such as turtles or an occasional manta ray.
And even on days without any animal sightings, the reef itself is a great sight.

This same spot can be viewed in 360:

Connecting these images to each other or viewing locations through time creates an immersive experience that engages a user more than the regular image. This way students can feel more connected to the location, which encourages learning about its relevant issues- like climate change. 

Toward the end of the summer I was also able to visit a summer camp on Guegeegue, another island within the Marshall Islands, and share VR experiences and an activity with middle/high school students. They were able to run through observations of various reefs and compare them to images taken locally in the Marshalls, which turned to discussion on the role coral reefs play in their lives and geologically in the Marshall Islands. 
Photo of 360 activity brought to Guegeegue. This included 360 reef
print-outs as well as google cardboard headsets to view the images in VR.
Overall, this summer was great- I got to spend a ton of time in the water, exploring reefs, and most of it with a lot of cameras!