Learning forest goes global virtually

How do you bring a small urban forest to students worldwide during a pandemic? Make it digital.

In 2009, Dr. Alex Smith began using GigaPan photography technology to record weekly habitat panoramas in U of G’s Dairy Bush.

The 8.5-hectare hardwood forest on the University campus is a research site for students in a popular biodiversity course in the Department of Integrative Biology taught by Smith and Dr. Shoshanah Jacobs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, they used 11 years’ worth of GigaPan images to create the Digital Forest, a virtual classroom that stands in for the real thing.

“We are now working with GigaPan to make the user interface more accessible to more people, whether they are right next door or thousands of kilometres away,” Jacobs says.

They expect to continue using the Digital Forest after the pandemic.

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