What is this project about?

This is a research project that aims to understand how to build and use interactive visualizations of coastal places for better approaches to coastal planning and management. To this end, we explore two major research questions.

What are the challenges and opportunities around developing and using realistic, immersive visualizations in collaborative coastal management and planning?

Landscape visualizations have shown promise as tools for facilitating inclusive and collaborative environmental management processes; therefore, intuitively speaking, they should have potential as powerful tools for coastal management, as well. However, as the name ‘landscape visualization’ suggests, most of the research around these tools has been primarily in the terrestrial context and research on coastal visualizations is still in its early stages. Effective coastal management requires understanding (and thus visualizing) coasts as interconnected terrestrial and marine environments that form a continuum from land to sea. In addition, coasts are dynamic places that cannot be accurately captured through static pictures. Consequently, modelling the coast is a unique challenge that requires thinking about how to build interconnected and dynamic land, water and underwater elements and environments.

How (and why) do realistic visualizations function as tools for facilitating inclusive and collaborative coastal management?

Through this question, we explore the ‘human component’ of visualizations; that is, the ways users interact with these realistic depictions of real-world environments. Landscape visualization studies have shown that these are effective tools for facilitating discussions with diverse stakeholders through their ability to clearly present how certain courses of action (or lack thereof) might alter/impact values and meanings associated with particular environments. This means that these tools are connecting with people’s ‘sense of place’, or the meanings, values, beliefs and attitudes that people associate with places. This requires us to think about realistic visualizations as ‘place-based tools’. When building potential management scenarios in a visualization, the changes/alterations to the depicted place might align or conflict with a visualization user’s sense of place.