NSF-funded CI-TEAM projects

tony_oliver_haitiThe NSF funding program CI-TEAM provides support for KeckCAVES. In our research, training, and education, we build inter-disciplinary research environments for preparing students in the geosciences, computer science, science and technology studies, anthropology, and physics for successful technical careers. We engage students in interdisciplinary teams to jointly develop, use, and disseminate cyber-infrastructure (CI) tools and techniques using virtual reality and scientific visualization for research and education. To date, CI-TEAM funding has influenced over 20 doctoral dissertations, 7 masters theses, and 10 undergraduate research projects.

In The Classroom

Earthquake Visualizations

KeckCAVES visualizations and software can be used to enhance understanding of earthquakes and plate tectonics. A three-part module series presents 3D visualizations of global earthquake data to teach introductory-level geology students about the basic processes and dynamics that produce earthquakes (‘Global Earthquakes: Teaching about Earthquakes with Data and 3D Visualizations‘). These 3D visualizations allow students to easily visualize and experience complex and highly visual geologic concepts because features can be viewed from many different scales and perspectives. Education modules can be downloaded from the Science Education Resource Center. If you are interested in downloading the 3D Earth Model visualization software and accompanying earthquake and volcano data sets email us at [email protected].

Virtual Field Mapping

Crusta, a virtual globe that enables remote geologic mapping, and LiDAR Viewer, which supports visualization of LiDAR point clouds and extraction of orientation measurements, are used as teaching tools in upper division geology classes at UC Davis. Following a traditional field mapping exercise students revisit this same area virtually using ArcGIS, Crusta, and LiDAR Viewer. This virtual mapping exercise allowed the students to quickly explore the region surrounding the original field area and interpret the regional tectonic context by synthesizing their field observations with those made using the virtual analysis. Crusta and LiDAR viewer are both available for download.

Research On Learning

Why Use Virtual Reality for Geoscience Education?

* Visualizations, 3-D models, and virtual reality environments can enhance students understanding of complex and abstract concepts and phenomena. * Geology is among the most visual of the sciences, so geology students benefit immensely from visualization in a 3-D virtual reality environment. * 3D visualizations allow direct perception of geologic concepts that cannot be manipulated or experienced in the real world such as complex 3-D relationships, and vast spatial dimensions and time scales. * Virtual environments are engaging and have been shown to gain and hold students attention, which increases their motivation to learn.

Spatial Ability and Visualizations

Spatial visualization is required for understanding many geological concepts. Students are expected to be able to visualize and mentally rotate objects in order to understand many key geologic concepts. However, research in geoscience education and cognitive science shows that not all students have equally developed spatial thinking skills, and that some students are naturally better at spatial visualization than others. In particular, students exhibit conceptual difficulty in interpreting various 2D diagrams showing 3D phenomena. Incorporating 3D visualizations into teaching geology can remove barriers related to spatial thinking, and may help improve spatial ability


Lake Visualization 3D

Lake Visualization 3D is a KeckCAVES, Tahoe Environmental Research Center, ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center, Lawrence Hall of Science, and Institute for Learning Innovation collaboration to develop museum exhibits that enhance public awareness and increase understanding and stewardship of freshwater lake ecosystems, habitats, and earth science processes (Prototype movies of Lake Tahoe and Lake Champlain can be seen here and here respectively). This project is funded by NSF and was recently featured in Wired.

The Otellini Visualization Lab

The Otellini Visualization Lab, located at the prestigious Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC), is a state-of-the-art facility and the centerpiece of TERC’s efforts to both understand the complexities of Lake Tahoe and to educate and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. This public science education lab is a computer simulation and visualization laboratory which utilizes state-of-the-art numerical simulation and visualization resources developed at UC Davis and collaborating institutions, including KeckCAVES. KeckCAVES provides visualizations of scientific data to provide students and the public with a better understanding of complex issues. The laboratory is immediately visible from the Great Hall of the Education Center and works in conjunction with the other educational displays located within the education center.

The Macroscope at Maker Faire 2012 & 2013


We took a 3D TV – Razer Hydra visualization system, called The Macroscope to Maker Faire. We showed Mycelia, Flow, LidarViewer, pyVrui/VRoom, and EarthquakeViewer. More than 500 participants ranging in age from 2 to “too old to say” viewed and interacted with our software and our people each year. This project was coordinated through the UCD Complexity Sciences Center.

KeckCAVES Presentations to the Public

In 2008 the KeckCAVES team displayed our research on a large 3D screen at the the UC Davis Pavilion at the California State Fair, for the Centennial of the university. The display was visited by 16,000 individuals over a 2 week period. On the 2011 Mars Day, a Crusta movie played at the National Air and Space Museum. In 2011, we took a 3d TV system to the annual AGU meeting.

KeckCAVES Tours

NOTE: Unfortunately, the KeckCAVES is not offering tours at this time. In partnership with campus organizations, various members of KeckCAVES provide tours for high school and younger groups to show them what scientists do. For example, KeckCAVES undergraduate Marisol Juarez Rivera and graduate student Tyler Mackey showed about 30 Latino students from a Richmond soccer club KeckCAVES during their visit to UCDavis.

Workshops and Courses

Computational Astrobiology Summer Symposium 2011

The Computational Astrobiology Summer Symposium 2011, sponsored by the NASA Astrobiology Institute included KeckCAVES visualization software on a 3D TV system. Postdoc Tony Bernardin attended and helped set up and demonstrate the visualization system.

Workshops and Courses

COLLAPSE (suddenly falling down)

In Fall 2007, we collaborated with Della Davidson, professor of Theatre and Dance, and Physical Sideshow Theater to provide stereoscopic 3D animations as backdrop and interactive scenery for a modern dance performance, COLLAPSE (suddenly falling down). We installed a 16’x9′ polarized screen as part of the stage and a large-area motion capture system to allow dancers to control the 3D display live and in real time, and handed polarized 3D glasses to the audience. We showed scripted and interactively controlled fly-by animations of LiDAR data, and an interactive 3D painting program controlled live by a dancer on stage. The performance won an Izzie (“Isadora Duncan Dance Award”) for visual design.

The Dream Vortex

The Dream Vortex is a work in progress representing a collaboration between Meredith Tromble and Dawn Sumner with assistance from Chris Ellison and Jim Crutchfield. It uses Mycelia to render the dreams of KeckCAVES and Complexity Sciences Center as nodes and drawing that capture the images and connections among the dreams. See a presentation on the project here.