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Virtual Learning Environment: An Application to the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2010 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 20 - June 23, 2010  1000001.(doi:10.13031/2013.29596)
Authors:   Yunchul Jung, Howard W Beck, Michael Bannister, Wendell P Cropper, Christina Staudhammer
Keywords:   virtual learning, sampling statistics, virtual forest, longleaf pine ecosystem , mensuration

Understanding management and assessment of diverse forest ecosystems throughout the world is an important objective of forestry education, but may students have limited opportunities for inter-regional and international collaboration and study. A virtual world environment can address limitations in conventional teaching technologies. In this study, a virtual learning environment for the longleaf pine ecosystem is being developed using virtual world technology, which allows avatars to interact with other avatars and objects in online 3D visualization. The ecosystem consists of a stand of trees and associated plants, which are generated by a forest population spatial distribution model based on a selectable statistical distribution patterns. Field exercise features like mensuration and sampling are developed based on statistical methods. The quality of tree rendering is enhanced by utilizing diverse tree models characterized by tree age groups and by switching detailed tree models depending on distance from avatar. The virtual forest environment is expected to help students to learn important management skills and methods by avoiding long trips to real forests, reducing costs, and facilitating collaboration with peers.

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