Queen Mary University of London

Atlantis

Turtle swimming simulation

The Challenge: In May 2018, we were approached by a team of scientists from Queen Mary University of London interested in visualisation and analysis of turtle swimming data that they collect in Cape Verde. It rapidly evolved into a wider project blending design, science and wildlife protection

Outcomes:

A/ A simulator used by scientists to visualise turtle swims and allowing for complex behaviour analysis (see below)

B/ A VR educational application used by a partnering NGO (Project Biodiversity) to raise awareness in Cape Verde on the effects of poaching and plastic pollution

Context

Every summer, a team of scientists from Queen Mary University travels to Cape Verde where, during 8 weeks, they deploy sensors on nesting loggerhead turtles so as they can track them and understand their complex and mysterious behavioural patterns as they return to the ocean.

This generates large arrays of points which are tedious to interpret using existing data analysis tools. In addition, graphs and charts are not always the best support when it comes to showcasing research, whether to educate or to convince decision makers in charge of research fund allocation.

The Project

Following a 3 weeks collaboration with the scientists to understand their methodologies and needs, a co-ideation phase led us to design and develop a simulator allowing for:

  • Real-time visualisation: Our simulation model converts, in real-time, 6 axis acceleration + pressure data into a photo-realistic 3D swim, allowing for fast interpretation by a human (for instance: is the turtle diving / hunting / resting?)
  • Time travel: Atlantis makes it easy and fast to load raw data on the fly, pick and play an interesting series of events within large arrays of points (the average recording covers a period of 3 weeks with 7 sensors recordings per second)
  • Bulk analysis: Scientists can compare dives from different times and different turtles in a matter of minutes
  • Education: The way we designed the simulator made it easy for us to develop, in parallel, a simplified VR version for educational purposes

Impact

The simulator is being used since the first beta release in August 2018: Because they are now able to interpret the data at scale, Atlantis allows scientists to understand loggerhead turtles behaviour and define no-fishing zones more accurately.

Since June 2019, the VR version is being used in Cape Verdian schools and prisons to help raise awareness around the plastic polution issue and reduce the practise of poaching.

Contributors

Christophe Eizaguirre, Emma Lockley, Albert Taxonera, Fernando Pain, Emma Powell, Leonard Heuse and Guillaume Couche

Queen Mary University London and Wolf in Motion, 2019