3D Reconstruction of Microbialites

Microbialites can have complex morphologies that preserve clues to ancient microbial ecology. However, extracting and interpreting these clues is challenging due to both the complexity of microbial structures and the difficulties of connecting morphology to microbial processes. We study the 3d morphology of both modern and ancient microbialites using diverse techniques.

Climate Change Visualization

We are using 3DVisualizer and developing a new suite of computational tools to explore changes in global ocean circulation. This project merges analysis of ocean flow with 40 years of previously-collected data from deep sea sedimentary cores in order to gain new insights into past ocean circulation change.

Confocal Microscopy

Multichannel confocal microscopy is used to highlight different biological features within a sample. Co-visualizing the channels in 3d provides novel insights that are not recognized in traditional visualization techniques. We are developing collaborations with confocal microscopy users to extend use of 3DVisualizer to this community.


Mapping the geology of Mars can be accomplished by visualizing variable resolution orbital topographic data and images using Crusta. Two of the candidate landing sites for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory have been extensively studied, and ongoing research will focus on the chosen landing site.

Dynamics of Earth's Interior

Geodynamics models of convection in Earth’s mantle are revealing the processes governing plate tectonics, mountain building, volcanism, and the thermal history of our planet. Seismic tomography is used to see into Earth’s deep interior to identify the thermo-chemical structures that lie deep beneath our feet. We use 3DVisualizer to investigate and analyze flow fields generated from geodynamics simulations and structures observed using seismic imaging.

Earthquakes and other Natural Hazards

We use high resolution scans of topography (LIDAR) to measure displacement on faults due to earthquakes.

Responsive Media in Science and Art

We are studying the ways in which the CAVE and VRUI change the way in which scientists conduct research. Drawing on the field of Science & Technology Studies we are investigating the phenomenological experience of extended interaction with dynamic data objects. Collaborating with the Humanities Innovation Lab, we are also exploring new models of engaging with 3D immersive environments through collaborations with artists, and developing Digital Humanities projects that can make full use of VRUI and the KeckCAVES.

Structure of Nonlinear Systems

Nonlinear dynamical systems are notoriously difficult to analyze. The best known example of this is found in deterministic chaos, where systems actively produce unpredictable and random-appearing behaviors, despite the simplicity of the governing equations. Many fields are well acquainted with this kind of complex behavior; it is found in a wide range of phenomena from fluid turbulence and electronic circuits to ecological and economic dynamics. Until recently, the difficulty of research and education in nonlinear dynamical systems has been to “visualize” the underlying structures that produce chaos. Only in the last several years with the development of high performance graphics processors and innovative visualization tools, such as sensory-immersive cave environments, has a direct approach to interactive visualization of nonlinear dynamical systems become possible.


A partial list of publications produced about or with the use of KeckCAVES technology is available here. Because we are a diverse, multidisciplinary, multi-institution team, this list is always incomplete. We encourage you to update the list, either directly or by sending a message to the KeckCAVES team with new publications, abstracts, and other products.


For KeckCAVES development has been provided by the the W. M. Keck Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the University of California, Davis.