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Educational Feature: Ocean Summits and Virtual Fish

A new project to create 3D models of marine ecosystems is using video game technology. A new feature article on GameCareerGuide.com written one of the students f
The University of British Columbia (UBC) Fisheries Centre and a team of students from the Masters of Digital Media (MDM) Program of Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver have created a virtual underwater view of the Gulf of Mexico using game technologies. GameCareerGuide.com has a new feature article written by one of the student developers that explains how this, and future, 3D models of marine ecosystems will be used by sustainability advocates to educate policymakers and the public. The virtual ocean worlds -- real-time, player-controlled scenarios that will show the impact of policy decisions on the world’s fisheries -- will be used in a series of Ocean Summits. The purpose is to display scientific information in a compelling and interactive way using the Blender game engine, as this excerpt from the article explains: “Good decisions rely on having a clear picture of what’s actually happening in the world’s oceans, and the scientists at the Fisheries Centre realized that the ways they communicate with each other -- in the form of complex graphs and statistical tables -- didn’t always translate into information that public officials or managerial people found pertinent. The challenge was to visualize their data, collected over the last 50 years, in a way that non-scientists could understand and use to determine marine resource policies. The solution is data visualization. After many iterations, a team of students in the Masters of Digital Media Program at Great Northern Way Campus has built a proof of concept prototype which will allow the Fisheries Centre to display eight species of fish native to the Gulf of Mexico, with the numbers of fish on screen responding to the output of the EcoPath software. This data drives a dynamic 3D environment, which can instantaneously represent impacts on fish populations based on ‘what if’ scenarios. Instead of committing decisions which may not result in the desired outcomes, policymakers can test different approaches to fisheries management and actually see the results first hand. The Centre believes that, backed by the best available science, this kind of interactive process can be powerful and effective in creating more than a merely analytical response and will encourage Ocean Summits participants to adopt new options for fisheries management. … The data visualization, which the MDM student team developed, uses video game technology as a basis for the platform; we believe we are among the first team to implement a scientific data visualization which relies on a video game engine for its backbone. Discussions with the Fisheries Centre led us to adopting Blender as the engine we used, because it is both open source and free.” To read more about this student-driven project, see the complete article on GameCareerGuide.com.

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