Page 39 - May2017

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With a video, the movement is recorded. With the virtual dive image, a
snapshot of the reef is captured, and the viewer looking around in different
directions provides the movement, Hickerson says.
“On a computer screen, this involves dragging the image up, down and to
either side, to see what is beyond the immediate view. With virtual reality
goggles, it’s a completely immersive experience. The image is mounted directly
in front of your eyes and you turn your head and body around to see in different
directions, as if you are actually there on the reef.”
The Virtual Dive Gallery of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
made its public debut on March 25 of this year at the Ocean Discovery Day at
the sanctuary, where hundreds of visitors experienced it for themselves.
“A lot of people seemed to be really interested in how it works. Overall, I think
a lot of the adults got a good experience with it because they don’t often get
that sort of perspective, even when looking at a banner or photo of the reef—
especially those that don’t dive or have much, if any, exposure to the Flower
Garden Banks,” says Research Specialist Travis Sterne, one of the sanctuary staff
who hosted the virtual dive booth at the event.
“The majority of our guests were kids, and pretty much all were amazed by it. I
think the best part was watching them spinning around and pointing out stuff in
the photos. Sometimes they’d try to move closer to things and even try to grab
at what they were seeing. It was pretty entertaining to watch a group of them
stumbling around with big smiles on their faces, while I was trying to keep them
from bumping into other people.”
Kelly Drinnen, Education & Outreach
Specialist at Flower Garden Banks
National Sanctuary, offered the Top 5
things the public needs to know about
the sanctuary:
The healthiest coral reefs in the entire
Caribbean are found right off the Texas/
Louisiana coast.
These reefs are as healthy now as they
were in the 1970s, when monitoring
began, but that can change at any time.
The health of the reefs depends on how
we treat the planet.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including
our reefs! Some of the coral colonies
in the sanctuary are as big as small
cars, and in many areas the reefs tower
15-20 feet above the sand flats. Even
some of the fish are bigger than one
might expect. Drinnen says she has seen
angelfish as big as small bicycle tires.
The sanctuary does not sit in isolation,
it is geologically and biologically
connected to other reefs and banks along
the outer continental shelf. Drinnen
and her colleagues have been exploring
these other reefs and banks for many
years to understand the connections. A
recent proposal for sanctuary expansion
recommends that some of these also
become part of the sanctuary.
Most people will never get to the
sanctuary, due to its remote location,
but they can experience the beauty
and wildlife of the sanctuary by visiting
Flower Garden Banks exhibits at zoos,
aquariums, and museums, as well as
their new virtual dive photos.
Hickerson collecting a
panoramic image with a
loggerhead sea turtle
Location of
FGBNmS in the Gulf of
Opposite page TOP:
Large manta swimming
in the FGBNmS
swimming with school
of fish in FGBNmS
MAY 2017 |
Photos courtesy of FGBNMS