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A three-minute video produced by a team from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology’s Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology and University of California, San Diego has been selected as one of nine finalists in the Ocean 180 Video Challenge, a video competition calling for video abstracts that not only summarize recently published research findings but also highlight their relevance and real-world implications.

“Far too often science is conducted in a bubble and researchers put little effort into engaging with general audiences,” explained 2016 finalist John Burns, a PhD candidate in the zoology graduate program. “Developing media products for middle school students is a great way to educate them on scientific issues and also show that while scientific research is a lot of work, it is a fun and exciting career that allows you to make new discoveries about the world we live in.”

Based on the study “Integrating structure-from-motion photogrammetry with geospatial software as a novel technique for quantifying 3D ecological characteristics of coral reefs,” Burns and Cliff Kapono, with UC San Diego, developed their video submission to focus on an innovative method for reconstructing coral reefs in 3D—the “structure-from-motion” imaging technique. Researchers collect multiple overlapping images from all angles of the coral reef and use multiple software tools to create high-resolution 3D models. Never before have scientists been able to collect a 3D permanent record of coral reef habitats, as well as measure intricate features of reef structure.

This work has allowed researchers to determine which coral species provide the most complex and dynamic habitat for marine organisms. They have also monitored reef structure over time in order to analyze how disturbances and disease affect coral complexity, and ultimately the diversity and productivity of these underwater environments.

Explore the reef by moving your mouse or smartphone

“The video we created uses immersive 360-degree virtual reality. We filmed with a 360-panoramic GoPro set-up to let you virtually explore these environments and our efforts to protect and save these precious ecosystems,” the team said in their video submission.

Users can access the YouTube to interactively view the video. The YouTube player allows viewers to use their mouse to scroll and look in any direction, or watch on a smartphone and pan through the scene by simply moving the phone.

More on the Ocean 180 Video Challenge

The top entries, as selected by a panel of science and communication experts, will go before a team of more than 35,000 highly critical student judges who will ultimately determine the winners. From January 4 to February 15, 2016, students from 1,600 middle school classrooms in 11 countries and all 50 states in the U.S. will screen the videos, provide feedback to the scientists, and cast their votes for their favorite films.

Contest winners will be announced on February 23, 2016 during a special town hall session at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Ocean 180 Video Challenge, sponsored by the Florida Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence and funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation, was designed to inspire scientists to communicate the meaning and significance of scientific research with a broader audience.

—By Marcie Grabowski

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