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Have you ever wondered what the world around us looks like in three dimensions? With the advancements in technology, 3D scanning is quickly becoming a game-changer in the field of environmental conservation. Here in Australia, where the unique ecosystems and wildlife are of great significance, the potential of 3D scanning to change the way we map ecosystems is enormous.

What is 3D Scanning?

3D scanning is the process of creating a digital 3D model of an object or environment by using a 3D scanner. These scanners emit a laser or light pattern that is reflected back to the scanner and measured to create a detailed 3D model. This technology has been around for a while, but recent improvements have made it more affordable and accessible, making it an ideal tool for environmental conservation.

Mapping Ecosystems

Traditionally, mapping ecosystems involves taking measurements and collecting data to create a 2D representation of an area. This process can be time-consuming and often does not capture the full picture of the ecosystem. With 3D scanning, it is possible to create a complete 3D model of an ecosystem, providing a more accurate representation of the area.


This technology can be particularly useful in areas that are difficult to access or dangerous to survey. For example, 3D scanning can be used to create models of the ocean floor, which can help us to understand the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef. It can be used to create models of inaccessible areas in forests or mountains too.

Using 3D Scanning in Conservation Efforts

One of the key advantages of 3D scanning is its ability to create highly detailed models. These models can be used to study ecosystems and identify areas that need conservation efforts. This means that 3D scanning can be used to identify areas where certain species are at risk of extinction, allowing conservationists to take the best action to protect them.


3D scanning can also be used to monitor changes in ecosystems over time. By creating multiple models of the same area over time, it’s possible to identify significant changes in the environment. This information can be used to study all sorts of factors impacting entire ecosystems.

3D Printing

3D printed models can be used in a variety of ways. We can use 3D scanning to create 3D models of an ecosystem, which can be used as a tool to improve conservation efforts. For example, 3D-printed models of coral reefs can be used to educate people about the importance of these ecosystems and the threats they face. All you need to do is choose a 3D printer for the job you’re after, and you’re all set to influence positive change in the environment. These models can also be used to study the impact of climate change on coral reefs and to test conservation efforts over time.

Mapping Cultural Heritage Sites

3D scanning has proven particularly useful in mapping and preserving cultural heritage sites. These sites often face a range of threats, including natural disasters, climate change, and human activities. 3D scanning technology allows for the creation of detailed models of these sites, which can be used to monitor changes over time and aid in restoration efforts.


For example, the Sydney Opera House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was scanned in 2017 using 3D laser scanning technology. This technology has even been used in the famous art installations there. The resulting models provided a detailed record of the building's condition, which was used to plan and prioritise conservation efforts.

Assessing Wildlife Populations

Another area where 3D scanning has been particularly useful is in assessing wildlife populations. Traditional methods for monitoring populations, such as tagging and tracking, can be invasive and disruptive to the animals' natural behaviour. 3D scanning offers a non-invasive and accurate method for gathering data on animal populations.

Protecting Endangered Species

One of the most significant benefits of 3D scanning technology in conservation efforts is its potential to protect endangered species. By creating detailed 3D models of endangered species and their habitats, conservationists can identify areas that need protection and develop conservation strategies.


For example, researchers in San Diego used 3D scanning technology to create models of endangered sea turtles and their habitats. The models were used to identify areas that needed protection and to develop strategies for mitigating threats, such as fishing nets and pollution.

Advancements in 3D Printing

The ability to 3D print models created using 3D scanning technology has opened up new possibilities in conservation efforts. 3D printing allows for the creation of physical models of ecosystems, which can be used for educational purposes and as a tool for conservation efforts.


For example, the Reef Design Labs in Australia used 3D printing to create a model of the Great Barrier Reef, which was used to educate the public about the importance of this ecosystem and the threats it faces. The model was also used to test conservation efforts, such as coral planting and reef restoration.


3D scanning technology is rapidly becoming a game-changer in the field of environmental conservation. Its ability to create highly detailed models of environments and ecosystems has opened up new possibilities in mapping, monitoring, and protecting our world. From cultural heritage sites to endangered species, 3D scanning is providing conservationists with valuable tools to help protect our planet for future generations. As technology continues to advance, it is exciting to think about the new possibilities that 3D scanning and 3D printing will bring to the field of environmental conservation.