Virtual reality revealing truth of sea level rise

Ceylin Arias/Staff Writer, which focuses on creating student journalism about environmental impacts related to sea level rise, emerged as an initiative among four journalism faculty members at Florida International University to raise public awareness of sea level rise through student and community engagement.

The project was initially funded by a 2014-2015 $35,000 Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education grant from the Online News Association. Original team members for include Robert “Ted” E. Gutsche Jr., Susan Jacobson, Kate MacMillin and Juliet Pinto. 

The Mobile Virtual Reality Lab, located in Hubert Library 156, is a $20,000-project funded by FIU’s School of Communication + Journalism. Beginning in summer 2016, this project provides enhanced digital storytelling opportunities for students and citizens of South Florida.

In 2016-2017, the MVR Lab, in collaboration with, is focused on creating stories for South Florida communities that highlight the effects of sea level rise. In addition to producing stories about Coral Gables’ immigrant communities, the lab will also produce a VR project that introduces users to the interactive and daily experiences of sea level rise, a story that has since been difficult to tell given the “hidden” nature of rising seas in South Florida, according to their website.

A VR project that examines the architecture and infrastructure of South Florida related to rising seas to promote public, digital communication about future challenges to our built environment, will also be available.

Michelle Castro, a junior psychology major, said that the usage of media to promote environmental factors such as sea level rise is a resourceful way for people to understand how our careless actions are having a negative impact on the environment.

“No one is so alarmed of sea level rise because they’re not seeing it take place right before their eyes…yet…Addressing the issue now while we still have the chance to do so is the logical way to go about this situation and that means exposing every evidence we have and to use our resources including the media to warn people of the serious dangers of sea level.”

Though Castro has not had the opportunity to participate in the MVR lab yet, she said that spreading awareness through the use of digital storytelling could persuade people to become more environmentally-conscious given its innovative use of media.

“People are much more willing to pay attention to a problem when it’s presented to them in a fresh way and to be honest, most of the media that attempt to do this is generally too informative and boring,” said Castro.

Simon Lopez, a sophomore international relations major, agrees that in order to wake more people’s awareness to take action on sea level rise, people need to feel like they can make an impact on their community.

“Sooner or later, and hopefully sooner, people will need to understand that sea level rise is not a joke. Don’t be like Trump who believes that global warming is not real. Sea level rise, like global warming, is very much real and it is beginning to take a toll on our environment. Be conscientious and take part in the cause, but if we continue with our same habits our great-great grandchildren or maybe our great-grandchildren will suffer the consequences,” said Lopez.

For more information on sea level rise, visit


Featured Image retrieved from Flickr.

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