Karen Kackley-Dutt

Associate Professor of Biology
2018 TLT Faculty Fellow
Focus Area: 360° Video and Global Virtual Immersion

Earth’s biomes – large regions that share similar climates and communities of organisms – maintain the planet’s biodiversity and perform vital ecosystem services. These communities such as rainforests, temperate forests, tundras, and coral reefs are threatened by climate change, pollution, habitat destruction and more. Karen Kackley-Dutt, a biology professor at Penn State Lehigh Valley, aims to increase environmental advocacy by exposing students to biomes through her project. Most students don’t have the economic means or sufficient time to travel and experience much of the natural world, while photographs and traditional video seldom impart a deep appreciation of natural resources.

360-degree video and virtual reality (VR) provide a partial solution to this dilemma by allowing students to travel to various biomes around the planet. As Marilyn Vos Savant states, “To acquire knowledge, one must study, but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” This project will provide students the opportunity to observe Earth’s biomes for themselves through an immersive experience. By observing and virtually experiencing a variety of biomes students will become more connected to them in a manner similar to those students who travel.

In order to compile the resources necessary to design the immersive environments, Kackley-Dutt is enlisting the help of field researchers across the world. Her Biome Boxes contain all of the needed equipment required to capture 360-degree video in various regions. Researchers who have agreed to record the footage will get cameras, tripods, instructions for using and returning the equipment, and best practices.

The Team

Carla Seward (lead)
Amy Kuntz
Eileen Grodziak