Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience

You might be aware that coral reefs are rapidly bleaching as oceans continue to warm up and acidify due to climate change, but have you actually swam amongst these reefs and seen the immense amount of life they host? Not many people have, yet being able to glimpse into life under the sea actually stimulates psychological arousal and cognitive learning channels, meaning people are more likely to care and adapt their behaviour to help save the coral reefs. In 2016, Researchers at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment released the Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience, a virtual underwater ecosystem where the user can explore the beauty of coral reefs and all the creatures they harbour while simultaneously experiencing the effects of ocean acidification. The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience takes the user through 100 years of life underwater, from the present to the near future, teaching them about the three phases of ocean acidification and its effects through the personification of these different systems. First, the user experiences the consumption of fossil fuels where CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere and absorbed by the oceans. Then, the user interacts with different marine species, including coral, so as to experience their degradation personally. The goal of Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience is to serve as an educational tool on ocean acidification that forces the user to actually care about protecting marine life from the detrimental effects of climate change, thereby manifesting the drive to change their individual behaviours which can impact CO2 emittance. However, the effect of inclusion of nature in self (INS) has been found to diminish over time, meaning these the impacts of the Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience could be greater when this immersive technology is used sparingly in an educational setting (Ahn et al., 2016). While this technology is currently only available to those who have access to a VR headset, in the future technology like this could become as common as television and enhance field trips by taking students to places not possible before. 

Ahn, S.J., Bostick, J., Ogle, E., Nowak, K.L., McGillicuddy, K.T. and Bailenson, J.N., 2016. “Experiencing nature: Embodying animals in immersive virtual environments increases inclusion of nature in self and involvement with nature“.


Aesthetic/Leisure, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Ecological Modelling, Immersive Technology, Psychology