Nature Conservation is vital to the Ecosystem. Every animal that exists has a reason to exist, and they have a job to fulfil within the ecosystem. There are many challenges involved within nature conservation and new technology is always being developed to further improve this. But can Virtual Reality (VR) technology add a new dimension to nature conservation?

VR is a concept about replicating an environment and surrounding the user. The new technology is designed to bring entire new dimensions to film, gaming and even education. It immerses you within an entirely new world, stimulating the senses and creates an unusual sensory experience.

VR’s Assistance with Jaguars

VR is assisting with nature conservation by allowing researchers anywhere in the world, to assess environments and conditions of distant species, as if they were on location. They have already applied this first to the endangerment of the Jaguars that live in the Peruvian Amazon. The Jaguars are classified as near-threatened, however, lack of information on the population poses a threat to conservation.

Researchers from Queensland University of Technology put together 360-degree video footage, then digitally recreated the areas. Using several cameras, including 6 GoPro Hero 4’s, and sound recording devices. They filmed a 360-degree video. The technological set-up was crucial when reconstructing the Amazon, with the greatest degree of fidelity possible.

This includes sound recording devices to capture the sounds from every conceivable direction. T

his method was used, so that they could create an immersive experience far more detailed than earlier digital models. The information gleaned from this is being used to improve mathematical and statistical models that predict abundance and locations of Jaguars.

It is also being used to monitor population trends and threats to the specie.

Conservation Success and Future VR Assistance

Conservation International (CI), is a non-profit organisation that aims to protect nature. One of their success stories was Valen Reef, where a vast amount of the ecosystem within the reef was decimated by commercial fishing, poaching and damaging practices like blast fishing.

Since 2004 CI have been working hard to improve the situation, and reverse any damages. Since then 90% of the reef is recovering with fish populations rebounding. Whales and Rays have returned, poaching is down and ecotourism has flourished. Whilst the local peoples access to education, food and livelihoods have improved.

In July 2016, CI released their own 360-degree video of Valen Reef. Using this VR technology, they hope to educate viewers on the history of the region and explain Bird’s Head’s Seascape. The surroundings are brought to life using VR, and through this form of education, it can lead onto further development of nature conservation. Valen Reef is an example of how VR can be used to educate people on the importance of conservation.

It can educate people on natural environments of specific animals, and the role they play in their ecosystem.

A World of Possibilities

Every ecosystem around the world has a connection with each other. If one were to become out of sync, it would have a domino effect on surrounding ecosystems. The effects would eventually spread across the globe. It is the basic principle of the Butterfly Effect. With VR it can allow people to explore different environments, and educate them on the importance of conservation. Whilst doing this in a fun and stimulating manner. This could inspire the next generation of professionals within the conservation field.

VR also allows researchers and scientists explore a region, like the Peruvian Amazon, to study and potentially save a species from extinction. Technology such as VR should be further harnessed, to increase awareness and ability to tackle issues such as nature conservation.