Virtual Inventory Toolbox for Catchment Management

Funded by Science & Technology Facilities Council.

Collaboration with British Geological Survey and Liverpool John Moores University.

The aim of our project is to explore new capability for enhanced catchment management-related decision-making using innovative visualisation technologies to exploit existing data in novel ways. Recent advances in high resolution mapping from drones has enabled fine resolution 3D catchment models to be built that represent environmental variables, hydrological pathways and risk sources with much greater clarity and detail than ever before. These rich datasets provide the opportunity to visualise catchments in new and novel ways, and can transform a decision-maker’s understanding of the sources of diffuse pollution risk to the wider environment and how different catchment pressures interact. We propose a need to move beyond 2D web-based GIS tools and 3D web visualisation to deliver a step-change in decision-making; we will investigate the potential for Mixed-Reality/ Virtual Reality (MR/VR) immersive decision-making experiences whereby physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time to aid exploration of adaptable solutions for better catchment management. We will use a process of participatory co-design (via a workshop format, hosted at Hartree to explore available technologies) and work with relevant stakeholders & end-users (e.g. farm advisor communities, STFC, water company land management teams, NERC, ESRI, Agri-tech centres, CEH, cloud computing providers etc) to ensure relevant knowledge and end-user needs for functionality are integrated into our recommendations for taking forward a new collaborative approach to data visualisation for diffuse pollution management. The vision is to represent complex catchment systems using Building Information Management (BIM) modelling and use immersive visualisation tools to interrogate an inventory of geospatial data layers using MR/VR capability.

Why is this important?: Visualisations of environmental risks (e.g. agricultural runoff and diffuse pollution) provide a new dimension to decision-making for catchment managers by virtually placing the end-user within the landscape or environment of immediate concern. Often, due to logistics and practical barriers, decision-making is undertaken in a location far removed from the site of interest, or by personnel lacking up-to-date knowledge. The use of MR/VR to visualise how risks are generated from the landscape will help to remove the barriers, but will also provide opportunities for (i) a collaborative decision-making environment; (ii) enhanced communication with stakeholders and communities around catchment issues and (iii) visualisations of ‘what-if’ scenarios for catchment managers to test in order to guide future decision-making and thus increase resilience to future extreme wet weather events.

Total award value £15,257.60


Dr David Oliver
Dr David Oliver

Associate Professor, BES

Dr Carlos Loureiro
Dr Carlos Loureiro

Lecturer in Physical Geography, Biological and Environmental Sciences

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