Watch: Can virtual reality help protect habitats?

Koalas can be hard to see high in treetops, making ground surveys difficult. ©J. Philipp Krone

Can virtual reality help researchers better protect wildlife habitats? Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology combined VR with aerial thermal imaging and ground surveys to build a statistical model to predict where koalas would be located. The ultimate goal is to better protect the resources they use.

“If you can predict where koalas are, and the types of habitats they are hanging around in, then you know not only where to go to keep monitoring them but also the areas you need to protect,” said Catherine Leigh, lead author on the study published in PLoS ONE.

Koalas can be hard to find high up in treetops, so researchers combined ground surveys with thermal imaging. Then they sent researchers to locations to take 360-degree images which experts could use to determine if koalas were likely to be there. They found the method was 75% more effective than ground surveys alone.

For more, watch the video below.