The SERI Fire team uses a variety of creative tools to gain new perspectives on data content.  Modelor/hydrologist Naomi Tague and multimedia artist Ethan Turpin collaborate on creating rich visualizations from RHESSys, growing understanding of complex landscape systems for scientists as well as public users. Projects that began with distilling and hand illustrating the results of model outputs have grown into interactive exhibits using video game design.  Scientists from Tague Lab and designer David Gordon have joined to produce “Future Mountain: An Interactive Fire, Water, & Climate Model”, renders over 60 years of data from an important watershed in the Southern Sierras and lets users adjust a climate warming knob to observe different scenarios over time.



In April of 2019 SERI Fire and Burn Cycle Project produced a public exhibit in downtown Santa Barbara, California. “Future Mountain: An Interactive Fire, Water, & Climate Model” had its debut, giving users a chance to control and compare broad landscape visualizations from RHESSys.  Alongside was “Walk Into Wildfire”, which uses audio and video from fireproof camera boxes to give visitors a safe,  immersive point-of-view within rapidly burning forest vegetation.  Together, these multimedia installations provide complementary perspectives, from time-space patterns over decades to on-the-ground immediacy.



Turpin watercolor
The RHESSys model provides rich data of landscape dynamics, compiled from thousands of sources.  In Professor Naomi Tague’s conversations with artist Ethan Turpin, she described “how landscapes work” over cycles of fire and water.  Ethan iterated sketches with her input, constantly refining a visual model.


A work-in-progress animation shows the process of implementing the “Future Mountain” design in the Unity video game engine.

Graphed data from Tague Lab of fire effects on verifying forests for down-stream water availability.


Ethan Turpin’s illustrations of differences in water availability after burning among forests with co-mingled roots and shallow soil.


Ethan Turpin’s illustrations of differences in water availability after burning among forests with co-mingled roots and deep soil.