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New VR Project brings wildlife to life

A new approach for people to interact with their environment.

Aidan Aumell, a student at WSU, became aware that his friends were missing out on many exploration possibilities during the lockdown period back in 2020, including one excursion to Kamiak Butte. He intervened, utilising his AR internship to change the circumstances.

Aumell remarked that game creation, 3-D modelling, game design and VR are some of the things he is enthusiastic about.

Aumell received a B.S. in digital technology and culture from WSU a few years back and is currently working on his master’s degree in education.

Aumell started the Kamiak Butte Virtual Reality Project with professor Dr William Schlosser. Schlosser teaches Natural Resource Ecology for SOE 300. He highlighted that comprehending ecological interactions is the core of ecology.

He remarked on his viewpoints about ecology, stating that ecology is about a lot of figuring out the progress of vegetation and its relationship with wildlife. According to Schlosser, ecology is defined by a combination of different natural aspects. Due to the variety of natural plants and animals that call Kamiak Butte shelters, it may be used by students as a model ecosystem to study.

Schlosser remarked that he and his associates are attempting to demonstrate interconnectedness in the classroom, and emphasised that VR technology is proving to be helpful in achieving that objective. Schlosser added that the visual content is quite convincing.

Aumell filmed realistic recordings of the Butte during the COVID-19 epidemic to give learners access to the offering online. Schlosser produced an interactive field trip and instructional recordings.

The initiative has become a larger-scale team effort than Aumell could have ever imagined after a few years. Currently, it has upwards of 50 students that are participating in the collection of data.

Aumell stated that he keeps learning more about Kamiak Butte on a regular basis due to the data being derived by the students. For Schlosser’s course, Aaron Johnson and Eric Tetzlaff both served as academic staff. Tetzlaff, a student majoring in environmental and ecosystem sciences, set up cameras to record images of local ungulates including moose, deer, and elk.

Tetzlaff is enthusiastic about the idea of a virtual ecosystem that enables users to get a glimpse of many wildlife instances.

He emphasised that getting such views may not be possible for people in real life within the actual settings of the wilderness. He said that users can get a complete season perspective of Kamiak, which is especially beneficial if they are someone who does not live nearby to the location.

For great horned owl nest cams, Johnson, a junior wildlife ecology and conservation science student, installed mounts. He said that because Aumell photographs the Butte each month, the initiative is singular.

Johnson revealed that the cameras capture film of incredible natural phenomena since they are always on and are regularly examined by project participants.

Although the project’s expansive data bank may appear to be its most important part, Aumell claimed that one of its greatest aspects is that it involves students and faculty cooperation.

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