INNOVATION

Could 3D Glasses Revolutionise Conservation In Australia?

And you thought they were just for watching Avatar.

24/03/2017 1:38 PM AEDT | Updated 25/03/2017 3:18 PM AEDT

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Steve Shelley came up with the idea of using gaming tech for his work as a conservationist.

For most people, 'conservationist' generally conjures up images of wide open fields, khakis, broad hats and sample bags. Sitting at a computer wearing 3D gaming glasses is probably not on that list.

But Steve Shelley believes that the technology has the power to transform the way we do conservation, from assessing the health of native vegetation to monitoring wildlife.

A Information Management Officer for Parks Victoria, Shelley came up with the novel approach through his love of gaming.

"I knew of it, being a gamer, and I thought 'geez, I could apply this at work'," he explained.

Shelley is currently using the 3D glasses to map swallow wattle, a highly invasive weed, in the Grampians National Park in Victoria.

Previously, conservationists have done surveys on the ground, but these are time consuming, labour intensive and not always safe given the wild terrain.

The technology works by overlaying aerial photographs taken of the area to construct three-dimensional images, which are displayed using computer software called PurVIEW and observed using the 3D glasses. While using aerial photography on computers is not new, the added third dimension provides conservationists with the height of the vegetation -- essential information for eradication programs.

"It's quite incredible when you put the glasses on and everything comes to life... I put the goggles on and activate them and the forest just leaps out at me. It just makes assessing dieback and analysing weeds so much easier.

"Once I've mapped the wattle, I send it back to the rangers and they send contractors out on the ground to eradicate them."

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Conservationists are using the 3D glasses to target sallow wattle, an invasive weed in the Grampians National Park, Victoria.

But the uses for the technology are not limited to weeds.

"It's great for assessing vegetation health because you can really see the anatomy of a tree when it's in 3D," Shelley said.

It could also be used for looking at wildlife, including monitoring endangered species, Shelley said.

"There are a lot of negative stories around when it comes to the environment, about species being lost and that sort of thing, so to use technology in this way is such a valuable thing."

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