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Monday, April 9 • 3:30pm - 3:45pm
SYMPOSIA-07: An Immersive Experience of Wildfire Use for Ecological Restortation in the Ishi Wilderness, Southern Cascades, California

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AUTHORS: Alan H. Taylor, Arif Massur, Mike Nassry, Jan Wallgrün, Alex Klippel – Department of Geography, Penn State University

ABSTRACT: A century of fire exclusion has increased forest density and fire hazard in western ponderosa pine forests that historically burned every 5-15 years. Under favorable conditions, wildfire has the potential to restore forest conditions similar to those with an intact fire regime and this will increase forest resilience to subsequent wildfire. Four wildfires in the 20th century burned ponderosa pine forests in a remote site in the Ishi Wilderness creating a unique forest with the group and gap forest structure thought to be characteristic of pre-fire suppression forests. Here we describe how we developed immersive VR (iVR) applications for this unique and remote location to educate and communicate how wildland fire can be used effectively for ecological restoration. The iVR applications we developed are accessible through websites, HTC Vive, and mobile applications. The general framework for the development of these iVR applications primarily includes two-step workflow: data capture and content creation. For data capture we acquired high-resolution 360° (i.e. photography and videography) of forest conditions in the restored ponderosa pine forest and collected forest structure data in 1998, 2000, and 2016 in permanent plots. Then using Unity3D, we created both HTC Vive and mobile VR applications. The HTC Vive version allows immersion in georeferenced 360° scenes, controller-based and georeferenced map-guided navigation between these scenes, and a perception of the surrounding space of forest conditions using 1:1 body scale. The mobile iVR allows gaze-controlled and map-guided, interactive navigation between 360° scenes. Through a smooth virtual navigation and interactivity our developed Ishi iVR applications provide an excellent platform for 360° immersive tours, skywalks, and self-guided explorations of natural environments. We plan to determine if and how iVR experiences contribute to new or improved understanding of wildfire influenced pattern and processes for resource managers, educators, scientists, and the public.

Monday April 9, 2018 3:30pm - 3:45pm CDT
LaSalle 1 (7th Floor)