A couple of years ago I started the Virtual Forest project at Harvard Forest, outside Boston (USA). This project became a success with coverage in online at Vice and in print in the MIT technology review.
Recently, I was contacted to present some of this work online in a virtual meeting on the use of virtual / telepresence technology in teaching biology and ecology. Together with the persistent requirements of people to confne themselves due to COVID I thought it would be fun to restart this old project. I’m aware that this is a far cry from an actual hike in the forest, but now more than ever it might provide an escape still.
I collaborated with colleagues at Ghent University (providing a spot at the experimental forest) and gathered support from the INRAE and the Marie-Curie actions to revive the project. The result is that once more a 360 degree camera will stream live images of an experimental forest every half hour.
You can find the project stream at: virtualforest.io
As this project is hosted at a research site viewers can watch researchers do their work throughout the year as well as enjoy seasonal changes in the forest. Guest blog posts will briefly explain what is going on if there is lots of activity, or noteworthy events in the forest. I hope the project sparks your interest, and you revisit on occasion to check up on the trees and ongoing research.
Data are recorded every half hour and stored for later processing within a research context. These images provide key information on the timing of leaf unfolding in both the canopy and the understory of the forest. Blooming of understory is also observed due to the integral nature of the 360 photos, observing everything at once. Keep an eye on the virtual forest website, and our twitter account (@bluegreen_labs) for more regular updates.