WHY ARE REEFS IMPORTANT?
Coral reefs are facing imminent threat from pollution, overfishing and intensified global weather including hurricanes, rainfall and increased temperatures. However, it is hard for our collective human behavior to respond fast enough. Many see coral demise as a distant problem with no direct physical tie or consequence. Not everyone is able to live by the ocean and I would like to bring people closer to experience these natural places.
In an effort to increase viewers’ temporal understanding of human influence on coral reefs, I will juxtapose archival footage (Jacques Cousteau and Howard Hall's) from Lighthouse Reef, Belize, with present day 360 footage. I am asking for funding to use Virtual Reality (VR) as a community engagement tool to boost awareness of coral reef health and connectedness to nature.
Research shows nature documentaries, as well as landscape and wilderness photography, have the ability to connect people to nature[i]. This immersive Virtual Reality experience will include narration that explains the changes the viewer is seeing. Combined with narration, VR could be the medium to prompt further emotional response and create positive action for the natural environment. Along these lines, my project has vitality to drive action to save coral reefs. And with a sharpened perspective, viewers will feel a stronger desire to engage and sway pro-environmental behavior. I will test this theory by surveying viewers’ reactions to the VR, and Mobile experience I create.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
By donating, I will take advantage of this unique opportunity to document the current state of Lighthouse Reef Atoll in Belize and bring it to viewers like you. This footage will be critical in producing a compelling VR narrative experience that shows how the reef has changed over time.
THE BIG PICTURE
Furthermore, ‘The Reef Chronicles’ will aid media outreach by deepening public awareness and empathy for the coral reef ecosystem. It has the potential to push local communities and government agencies to allocate funding to mitigate pollution, improve monitoring of resources, and incentivize renewable energy practices. In addition, an increasing number of cause-driven organizations are turning to virtual reality to promote empathy.
My research will help determine which medium of VR narrative is more influential in creating a reaction. Thus, navigating where to allocate funds in an effort to more powerfully and effectively reach audiences.
Risks and challenges
Underwater photography is tricky at best, with the lighting, turbidity (particles clouding the water), distant offshore location and, oh yeah, your underwater, which means you have to work fast. Alas, we will be shooting in 20-50 ft water on the back reef to keep light high and turbidity low. We are strategically planning the dives with laminate photos and experienced local Belizean divemasters to match locations with archival footage.
And my unwavering team is comprised of experienced and dedicated educators, directors and divers. One advisor, Cody Karutz, is a film director with his most recent educational VR project 'The Crystal Reef: How Climate Change Affects the Oceans', shown at TRIBECA FILM festival. Andrea Stevenson Won, is my other advisor, a communications professor at Cornell University. She is bringing knowledge about the process, implications and possibilities of narrative in VR to the project. While I am a divemaster, coral biologist, outreach educator and have led coral reef restoration projects in the DR and Colombia. We are ready to adapt and will make this project happen :) Thank you for your support!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)