Virtual-reality simulation to enable exploration of changing environmental conditions in Tijuana estuary

Posted October 28, 2016
SCCWRP is co-developing a computer game-like re-creation of the Tijuana estuary in San Diego County that will allow users to explore past, present and future environmental conditions in the estuary. Pop-up windows along the virtual reality tour will provide a narrative description of how conditions have changed and will continue to change over time.

SCCWRP has teamed up with the geospatial software firm Esri to create a computer game-like re-creation of the Tijuana River estuary that will enable users to travel through the habitat and view pop-up information about past, present and future conditions.

The virtual reality demonstration project is intended to showcase the power of geospatial software to explore an environment on a computer or tablet, and to understand how changing conditions – both human-induced and natural – have impacted and will continue to impact this ecologically sensitive site. The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, which also is involved with the project, is located just north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Through the estuary’s virtual reality tour, for example, users will be able to view the state of its riparian forests before and after an invasive beetle infestation. Users also will be able to view changes to water levels and sedimentation through 2100 as projected by U.S. Geological Survey modeling. Pop-up windows along the tour will provide narrative information about changing environmental conditions.

This project builds off previous Tijuana estuary work with Esri exploring how geospatial software can help natural resource managers visualize and engage in long-term planning for ecologically sensitive areas.

An initial version of the virtual reality project will be presented at an Esri-hosted marine GIS conference in November in Redlands.

SCCWRP and Esri intend to continue adding to the tour, including visiting underwater sites and overlaying the landscape with alternate scenarios to aid in long-term planning.

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