By: Frank Granshaw, Portland State University - Department of Geology & Portland Community College
Elias Brown and I are a team from Portland State University (that's Portland, Oregon, not the other Portland) working with JIRP students and staffers to create a virtual field environment (VFE) based on the 2014 JIRP experience. A VFE is form of virtual reality portraying an actual place, that gives the user the ability to explore that place like they might do if they were actually there. VFEs are used in both education and research to prepare for and record fieldwork, as well as analyze data collected from a site. They are sometimes used in lieu of actual site visits, especially when getting to a place is logistically difficult. The JIRP VFE is intended for presenting JIRP and the Icefield to the wider world, as well as for the orientation for future JIRPers.
While lots of people construct virtual tours, as indicated by Google Street View and the virtual home tours on realty company web sites, what is unique about the JIRP VFE is that it is being constructed by JIRPers rather than virtual reality geeks. This means that the environment will evolve as the journey across the ice field evolves. This is an exciting project for me because it is an opportunity to combine my background in glacial geology, with a love of teaching, experience with educational research and development, and fascination with digital technology and geoscience visualization. As I leave on my way to Portland I am eager to see what the Wizards of VFE (JIRP students doing the photography for the VFE) and others will produce.
Watch for the public unveiling of the VFE in early fall!