Skip to main content

Oak Ridge, TN
Studying Bats And Batcaves With 3D Laser Scanners

By TJ McCueFriday, November 21, 2014
Laser Scanning

  • Carousel
  • Carousel
  • Carousel
  • Carousel
  • Carousel

All across the USA, we have found museums and national parks, to name just a couple, that are quietly pushing the edge of what’s possible with 3D technology. They are doing it not for the technology’s sake, although it is cool, but for school children and teachers around the world who want better resources for STEM/STEAM educational efforts.

We went to visit Mammoth Caves in Kentucky and the first kiosk screen I look at is a 3D model of a cave done by Nickolay Hristov, Bat Biologist, about his work in Carlsbad Caverns. I wondered for a moment if I had lost track of time and place because I thought I was at Mammoth Caves, not Carlsbad. But every national park that has something to do with bats wants to show his work and wants to increase understanding about this important creature.

Had I known that Bat biologist Nickolay Hristov, is at the University of North Carolina -- Center for Design Innovation and at Winston-Salem State University – I would have tried to meet him in person while the 3DRV went through North Carolina. I read in his profile, on his very informative website, iSWOOP: “He develops new techniques for filming and visualizing bats and the caves they occupy. Some of the tools in his kit include a long-range laser scanner--for modelling bat cave morphology--and portable thermal cameras--to capture bat-life when the lights are off.”

My son wrote about some of our experiences walking through the Mammoth Cave and a big part of the ranger’s focus was on protecting the bats and what we can do. Seeing the 3D models and photography from Mr. Hristov, inspired us to look for more examples of how nonprofit organizations are using 3D to improve our understanding of science and the world around us. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) has a great page called the Geology of National Parks, 3D and Photographic Tours Featuring Park Geology and Natural History.

The other example that comes to mind is perhaps a bit more well-known – the Smithsonian X 3D project. We visited there over the summer, as you might have read: Smithsonian Creates Museum Of The Future. That site is amazing and offers 3D models that you can view and download. Then you can take those models and 3D print away. When they release the T.Rex skeleton as a 3D file, I am certain someone is going to print one, life-size, piece by piece and place it in their backyard.

Follow along at! #3DRV

Get on the Map

Want to be a part of the 3DRV experience?


It's as simple as a tweet or a post to your wall with the #3DRV hashtag.

  • Comment on the tour
  • Share your thoughts
  • Post a photo

Want to see your post on the map?

Set Geolocation to ON for Facebook and Twitter on your mobile device.
(Please note that all fanfare posts will be reviewed prior to inclusion on the map.)

Send a
to 3DRV