The University of California, Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC), UC Davis W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES), ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center (ECHO), UC Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS), and the Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) will study how 3-D visualizations can most effectively be used to improve general public understanding of freshwater lake ecosystems and Earth science processes through the use of immersive three-dimensional (3-D) visualizations of lake and watershed processes, supplemented by tabletop science activity stations. Two iconic lakes will be the focus of this study: Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada, and Lake Champlain in Vermont and New York, with products readily transferable to other freshwater systems and education venues.

The PI will aggregate and share knowledge about how to effectively utilize 3-D technologies and scientific data to support learning from immersive 3-D visualizations, and how other hands-on materials can be combined to most effectively support visitor learning about physical, biological and geochemical processes and systems. The project will be structured to iteratively test, design, and implement 3-D visualizations in both concurrent and staggered development. The public will be engaged in the science behind water quality and ecosystem health; lake formation; lake foodwebs; weather and climate; and the role and impact of people on the ecosystem. A suite of publicly available learning resources will be designed and developed on freshwater ecosystems, including immersive 3-D visualizations; portable science stations with multimedia; a facilitator's guide for docent training; and a Developer's Manual to allow future informal science education venues.

Project partners are organized into five teams: 1) Content Preparation and Review: prepare and author content including writing of storyboards, narratives, and activities; 2) 3-D Scientific Visualizations: create visualization products using spatial data; 3) Science Station: plan, design, and produce hands-on materials; 4) Website and Multimedia: produce a dissemination strategy for professional and public audiences; 4) Evaluation: conduct front-end, formative, and summative evaluation of both the 3-D visualizations and science activity stations. The summative evaluation will utilize a mixed methods approach, using both qualitative and quantitative methods, and will include focus groups, semi-structured interviews, web surveys, and in-depth interviews. Leveraging 3-D tools, high-quality visual displays, hands-on activities, and multimedia resources, university-based scientists will work collaboratively with informal science education professionals to extend the project's reach and impact to an audience of 400,000 visitors, including families, youth, school field trip groups, and tourists.

The project will implement, evaluate, and disseminate knowledge of how 3-D visualizations and technologies can be designed and configured to effectively support visitor engagement and learning about physical, biological and geochemical processes and systems, and will evaluate how these technologies can be transferred more broadly to other informal science venues and schools for future career and workforce development in these critical STEM areas.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL)
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Arlene M. de Strulle
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University of California Davis
United States
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