A Technological Highlight from BioBlitz 2012

This past weekend, we were
able to participate in one of the coolest events of the year. The 2012 BioBlitz
in Rocky Mountain National Park was a 24-hour adventure in citizen science.
From noon on Friday, Aug. 24th to noon on Saturday, Aug. 25th, 150
scientists, 2,000 students and teams of volunteers worked together to find and
identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi and other
organisms as possible.


But the exploration didn’t
stop with identification! BioBlitzers were also treated to demonstrations of
some of the most interesting field technology available. One of the highlights
was a demonstration by scientist, engineer and National Geographic fellow, Corey


Corey is an engineer who
develops technologies to help archaeologists, filmmakers, biologists and
citizen scientists explore the world in new ways. The technologies that Corey
develops include a robotic camera system that takes the world’s
highest-resolution underwater images, a color night-vision camera that takes
both video and photographs, a 3D scanner that quickly makes 3D digital
captures of archaeological finds and a new type of camera trap that instead of
taking pictures of animals, can scan them in 3D.


Throughout BioBlitz, both at
basecamp and out in the field, Corey shared his expertise and technology with
students, scientists, volunteers and more. 


At basecamp, students were
able to explore the Underwater Spherical Imaging System, which controls an
underwater camera in a way that allows it to be panned and tilted in all
directions. Because of this technology, Corey and his team can take a photo in
every direction (200 or more photos in total). The images are then stitched
together to form a continuous spherical panorama that lets the user look around
in any direction, as if they were there.

Corey Blog Basecamp 1

Photo courtesy of Curtis Malarkey

They have also developed an
iPad and iPhone app and a web-based viewer to display this imagery in an
intuitive and interactive way. By utilizing the built-in gyros and
accelerometers in the iPad, Corey and his team have made it possible for the user to physically move the iPad in
order to look around in the scene.

Corey Blog Basecamp 2

Photo courtesy of Curtis Malarkey

Corey and his team first
used this system in Hoyo Negro,
a flooded cave system in Mexico, which contains both prehistoric animal and
human remains. The photo taken there (2.1 Gigapixels) is the highest resolution
underwater image ever taken. 


Students were also able to
see Corey’s 3D Scanning Camera and
Portable Spherical Video Camera, or PSV-Cam, while in the field at Estes


The 3D Scanning Camera is essentially the
integration of low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware (a Microsoft Kinect) and open
source code that Corey and his team adapted to act as either a 3D environment
scanner (think of scanning the entire interior of a tomb) or a 3D camera trap,
which builds a 3D model of an animal as it walks by, so that there is no need
to tranquilize the animal to make body measurements

Corey Blog Field 3

Photo courtesy of Jennifer

Though there are many
commercial 3D scanners available, many of them are in the tens of thousands of
dollars range, making them well outside the reach of local researchers in many
countries. Additionally, other systems are too costly to risk leaving in the
woods in an attempt to model a passing animal. Corey’s system is about $100 in
parts plus an embedded computer that costs less than a laptop.


Finally, students were able
to examine the Portable Spherical Video Camera (PSV-Cam). This video system
takes full HD video in every direction at once. This allows the viewer to
decide where they want to look as a video plays.

Corey Blog Field 4

Photo courtesy of Jennifer

Corey and his team focused
on making their PSV-Cams very low cost, with high resolution and a very small
size for use off the beaten path, which enables more explorers and researchers
to acquire and use this extraordinary technology.


Corey and his team are
responsible for creating some of the most innovative and interesting field
technology in the world. It was a great experience for all of us at National
Geographic Education to be able to learn more about their work and its impact
on the world of exploration.


A big thanks to Corey and
his team and everyone who made BioBlitz 2012 possible!


Check out Corey’s
Explorers Symposium
 profile and learn how he has dedicated his life to
developing technology that can change the way we see the world.

— Jennifer Day for National Geographic Education

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