The Wide Area Visualization Environment provides a Magic Carpet Time-Machine to Environmental Scientists
When Asst. Prof. Jeff Jenkins discovered a trove of Depression-era photographs of once-remote areas of Yosemite National Park, he was inspired to use them to use them analyze changes in the environment and land-use patterns of the intervening decades. In partnership with the WAVE’s undergraduate assistant, Fisher Dietz, over the summer of 2018, Dr. Jenkins, his PhD student Adam Fleenor, and Fisher revisited the sometimes remote locations from Lester Moe’s original photographs, and reimaged them using the WAVE’s state-of-the-art 360° VR camera, known as the CAVECame3.
Unlike Moe’s images, which were super-wide photgraphic plates exposed in 120° strips, the CAVECam3 takes hundreds of stereo images (one channel for the left and right eye) that can be stitched together to form a complete image sphere that surrounds the viewer in all directions. Using advanced image processing, these 360° stereo panographs were combined with Lester Moe’s historical photos as a photo montage with varying degrees of blending.
The result clearly shows how landscapes and land uses have changed. This work helps Dr. Jenkins tell a story of forest management, fire, land use and climate change in a much more accessible way. People can actually see the changes over time.
The WAVE Helps California State Parks with Preservation of Historical Landmarks
As part of a Memorandum of Understanding, UC Merced’s Assistant Professor of World Heritage, Nicola Lercari has been documenting remote and threatened cultural heritage sites around California. Because time, wind, weather and even climate change threaten these historic and sometimes remote places, Dr. Lercari has been working to use advance imaging and drone technologies to capture what’s left of places like Bodie State Historic Park. Using precision instruments, researchers can document the state of these Gold Rush era buildings, down to specific details such as nails in the wood, or bricks in the wall. Should something happen, like a roof collapse because of heavy snow fall, there’s a detailed record of the building’s state before the damage.
Working closely with the WAVE Lab, Dr. Lercari uses the WAVE visualization cluster to reconstruct detailed point-clouds of the site, then is able to study the results in super high-resolution detail on the WAVE itself. This allows him to continue his archeological, historical and cultural studies well beyond the one to two weeks access he’s afforded during the summer.