Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


HARWOOD, Cara L.1, GOLD, Peter2, KELLOGG, Louise H.3, KREYLOS, Oliver4, SCHLADOW, S. Geoffrey5, SEGALE, Heather6, YALOWITZ, Steven7 and YIKILMAZ, Burak1, (1)Geology Department, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, (2)Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, 2225 Speedway, Stop C1160, Austin, TX 78712, (3)Department of Geology, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, (4)KeckCAVES, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, (5)Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, (6)Tahoe Environmental Research Center, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, (7)Audience Viewpoints Consulting, Herndon, VA 20171,

Three-dimensional visualization is a powerful research tool used by geoscientists to investigate complex geologic data because it allows exploring features and processes not readily directly observable. We investigate how 3D visualization of scientific data sets can engage public audiences. Specifically, we explore how 3D visualizations can teach science center visitors about freshwater environments and stewardship. As 3D imaging technology grows widespread, it is important to understand the needs of science centers to host this technology and to evaluate the potential of visualizations to enhance informal learning.

Software tools developed for research ( were adapted for informal science settings. These tools allow interaction with high-resolution topographic data, imagery, and other primary and derived datasets (e.g. bathymetry, maps, hydrodynamic variables). These data are the basis for visualizations focused around lake and watershed processes in the Lake Tahoe and Champlain basins. For example, one visualization gives an aerial tour of geologic forces that shaped the Tahoe landscape (e.g. faults, debris blocks, glacial valleys). 3D lake mixing models demonstrate how lake dynamics change with surface temperatures. Another exhibit integrates augmented reality technology with hands-on learning. Using a real sandbox enhanced with virtual topography and water, visitors shape real sand and add virtual water to their model basin to explore how landforms influence watersheds.

Evaluations at science centers and museums are examining the interest and capacity of centers to host 3D visualization exhibits, and are assessing how 3D visualizations can be developed to maximize learning and engagement for the general public. Surveys of 42 institutions demonstrate they are especially interested in using 3D technology to put place in a geographical context, provide a user-controlled experience, and better engage visitors. Focus groups conducted at 3 institutions aim to evaluate the public’s interest in and understanding of freshwater ecosystems, and their reaction to 3D visualization exhibits. Ongoing research will evaluate the effectiveness of these visualizations and determine how 3D visualizations can best be integrated with 2D and table-top exhibits in science centers.