Master's student Bryan Keller demonstrates how
VAST Lab users can connect directly with ships on
scientific missions. Photo by Eilzabeth Boyle
One of the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment’s (CEOE’s) newest lab facilities gives scientists and students the opportunity to engage with the very latest technological tools in their fields.
The Visual and Advanced Simulation Training Lab, or VAST Lab for short, uses Google Earth, Fledermaus, and other computer visualization systems to display real-time data streams on everything from global ocean temperature and currents to the movement of ships in Delaware Bay — all at once.
The data come from a wide variety of sources — including satellites, autonomous underwater vehicles, and floating buoys — and are pulled into visualization software that lets users see geographic data in 4-dimensions (space and time).
In addition to an array of large wall-mounted monitors, a projection system, a conference area, and a full classroom set of computers, the lab includes technology that lets scientists remotely operate underwater vehicles and connect directly with ships on scientific missions anywhere in the world.
According to lab creator and Assistant Professor of Geological Science Art Trembanis, its users also can analyze and transmit data, including video, in real-time to and from remote research expeditions; and plan research sampling sites virtually. He also said that its scientific applications truly are vast: They include monitoring the movement of electronically tagged wildlife, studying the health of coral reefs, and examining habitats at the bottom of Delaware Bay.
“As recent events in the Gulf of Mexico attest, we live in an increasingly complex data-rich world, and immersive visualization systems allow research an unprecedented view of our world and insights that have until now been impossible,” Trembanis said.
During a recent visit to the VAST Lab by the Delaware Sea Grant Advisory Council, CEOE Dean Nancy Targett said she thinks the room will inspire students to get hands-on with science and the tools it has to offer.
“It really gives students a window into what the potential is for the next generation of technology,” she said.
Located in Penny Hall at UD’s Newark campus, the VAST Lab is similar to CEOE’s Global Visualization Lab, found at the Lewes campus.
For more on this exciting addition to the college, you can watch a video on the VAST Lab created by Colleen Leithren, senior secretary in the Geography Department, and Stephen Rock, a senior geography major. The two created the video for spring semester’s environmental videography course with instructor Mike Oates.
For more on CEOE, visit www.ceoe.udel.edu.