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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Queen Mary researchers win prestigious design award for innovative sea turtle behaviour simulator

Atlantis, a sea turtle simulator co-created by Queen Mary researchers and designers at Wolf in Motion, has won the IF award for User Experience design.


turtle 3D animation

Credit: Guillaume Couche/Wolf in Motion

Every year, the iF DESIGN AWARD identifies outstanding design, its relevance for business and everyday life and awards one of the most important seals of quality in the world. The award, which spans multiple disciplines, received almost 10,000 entries this year covering over 50 countries.

The simulator is the product of a unique collaboration between the Eizaguirre Lab and design studio Wolf In Motion, to create novel tools for analysing the complex behaviours of Cabo Verdean Loggerhead sea turtles. It translates raw movement data collected on real turtles into a 3D visualisation, drastically shortening interpretation time for the scientists.

By enabling researchers to visualise their dives, the simulator will ultimately help scientists and conservationists to better understand and protect these endangered animals.

Dr Christophe Eizaguirre, Principal Investigator of the research group at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Teaming up with a design studio such as Wolf in Motion has enabled us to think differently about our research and link animal conservation with a creative approach to better understand turtles’ behaviours.”

Protecting sea turtles

Driven by recent reports on climate crisis and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) finding that nearly one million species are at risk of extinction from human activities, Dr Eizaguirre’s team have been gathering data to understand the nesting and foraging behaviours of the animal and in the long-term enact policy change to help protect them.

The researchers travel to Cabo Verde each summer to track the behaviours of these cryptic animals, which are difficult to observe directly as they’re only on land for short and infrequent periods throughout the year. The research team place sensors called accelerometers on nesting Loggerhead turtles so they can track them and analyse their behaviour as they return to the water. The accelerometers record the movements of the turtles seven times a second for a period of around 3 weeks. When the tags are retrieved from the turtles, the researchers are left with huge amounts of data to analyse.

Wolf In Motion were given the brief of simplifying and visualizing over 50 million data points captured from each turtle. Their resulting creation, the simulator Atlantis, allows people to witness for the first time a real turtle’s swim .

Dr Emma Lockley, a Post-doctoral Research Associate from the Eizaguirre Lab said, “What the simulator is really useful for is removing the need to calculate the turtle’s behaviour from a load of graphs. It allows us to observe the behaviour of the turtle in the water to the extent that it’s like we’re swimming with her.”

A powerful public engagement tool

By using the same principle in virtual reality, Atlantis is also being used by Cabo Verdean NGO’s such as Project Biodiversity as an educational and public engagement tool. Since its introduction, the Atlantis VR experience has been shown to over 3000 school children in Cape Verde, and has also reached classrooms in Spain and the UK too.

Guillaume Couche, Design Director at Wolf In Motion, said: “This application is a great way to raise awareness of the threats that sea turtles, and other marine animals face in the oceans like plastic pollution and turtle poaching.”


Atlantis Trailer from Wolf In Motion on Vimeo.

Do you want to use Atlantis?

Atlantis is available to use in your organisation or educational centre. Find out more about Atlantis and how to use the tool in your activities.

Atlantis VR is only available for Oculus VR and you will need some of their basic headsets (Oculus Go). It is also available in three different languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Contact Dr Christophe Eizaguirre to use Atlantis as part of an educational activity or in a public engagement event. We will send you a redeem code and some instructions so you can start using it. We will only ask you to credit the Eizaguirre Lab and Wolf in Motion in some of your publications, and to share your experience with the world.

More information

  • Dr Christophe Eizaguirre is a Reader at the Queen Mary School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes. He teaches on Aquatic Ecology by Research MSc, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology MSc, Freshwater and Marine Ecology MSc, Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation and MSc Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics MSc. Find out more about the School’s postgraduate programmes.
  • The Atlantis project was supported by Queen Mary’s Centre for Public Engagement.




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