Funding boost to help people learn about rare chalk reef

People will be able to learn more about one of the world’s only chalk reefs thanks to a new project to create an interactive, virtual reality undersea experience.

The Living Coast Undersea Experience will enable people to explore the underwater environment of the Beachy Head West Marine Conservation Zone, which runs between Brighton Marina and Beachy Head.

The protected area is home to some of the best examples of chalk reef habitat, with specialised communities of animals and seaweeds, including the rare short-snouted seahorse.

Benefiting from a £7,000 grant from the Sustainable Communities Fund, The Living Coast Undersea Experience is being created by Simon Wilkinson of C!RCA69 and Karen Poley of KP Projects CIC, in partnership withThe Living Coast Brighton & Lewes Downs, UNESCO designated Biosphere Region; Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA) and the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Version One of The Living Coast Undersea Experience launched at The Old Market for Brighton Digital Festival in October of last year with some great feedback.

Further development is now under way and a pilot tour of the virtual reality experience has been taking place this spring at venues across the region.

Participants enter the experience as if preparing for a dive. On the ‘seabed’ they can walk around, explore and interact with the environment, as well as see through the eyes of sea creatures.

The Living Coast Undersea Experience has been created using existing seabed mapping to imagine a chalk reef gully teeming with marine life created graphically using high quality imagery.’

Mark Rose, External Funding Co-ordinator for the Sustainable Communities Fund, said: “This worthwhile project will open up one of the UK’s most unique marine environments to everyone – without getting wet!

“We’re pleased to have been able to help provide some funding towards the VR experience, which will be a powerful educational experience that will help people understand the environment and the things we can all do to help conserve it.”

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