Forward-thinking student 3D-maps Capricorn Caves

08 March 2021

Rockhampton-based CQUniversity Bachelor of Science (Applied Biology) student Lydia Georgeson has taken her passion for caves and science and used it to transform old resources into the now.

As part of one of her university units' Miss Georgeson collaborated with her supervisors' faculty from the School of Engineering and IT and her employer Capricorn Caves' to turn an old cave map into a 3D version.

'The original map for the caves was used for tours from the late 1940s and has never been updated'' Miss Georgeson said.

Miss Georgeson' 23' said she used LiDAR scanner technology to develop the new 3D maps.

'The original aim was to just produce a 3D map of the Cathedral Cave but once I became more familiar with the equipment and software' I decided to extend the project to a few more caves'' she said.

'I have now mapped out some of the larger caves in the system including the Cathedral' High Dome and Belfry Caves. Since this process was manageable and further benefits to a map have been identified' we have now decided to extend this project even further and to a much larger extent' and map most of the cave system.'

Environmental Science lecturer and Miss Georgeson's project supervisor Dr Nathan Brooks-English said 3D mapping of caves provides a wealth of information for the cave operator' particularly during COVID-19.

'The 3D maps help determine how many people can occupy the space with more accurate volume estimates'' Dr Brooks-English said.

'The 3D maps are also useful for research as they help scientists determine airflow and pathways in the cave - an important aspect in assessing human or natural impacts on animals in the cave'' he said.

Miss Georgeson said the 3D maps would also provide vital information for cave infrastructure updates.

'We have wheelchair access' bridges and stairs in the cave. With this technology' we are able to find all the measurements and plan exactly what we need without even entering the cave'' she explained.

'This could be useful if we had an external company that was wanting to construct something but couldn't access the cave easily and or regularly.

'With the accurate measurements provided by the map' we will also be able to see the effects of natural and anthropogenic erosion or impaction of the sediment. Also' in the future' if there are any concerns about the geological stability of some areas of the cave' we will be able to refer to the map and see if the limestone has moved.'

The 3D mapping equipment is owned and operated by CQUniversity and can be used to carry out other projects in mining and engineering' emergency services' accident forensics or any project where a digital 3D representation of a space could be useful in teaching and learning.

Capricorn Caves General Manager Jordan Wheeler said he was thrilled to have Miss Georgeson create the 3D maps.
'Capricorn Caves is very excited about the work Lydia has undertaken in mapping the Capricorn Caves'' Mr Wheeler said.

'It is providing us with an unprecedented level of understanding of our cave system and opening the door to so many new opportunities in the worlds of both science and tourism. The increased ability for interpretation of the caves in a digital space is very exciting and Lydia's work is providing us with great potential new products. We are very strong supporters of this collaborative effort between Lydia' CQUniversity and Capricorn Caves and also look forward to the potential research opportunities that follow.'

Now in her third and final year of the undergraduate degree' Miss Georgeson plans to publish her research at the completion of her project.

'I am glad I chose to study a Bachelor of Science' as it has exposed me to so many aspects of biology' chemistry and the environment. I love that I don't feel restricted by my degree to go for a certain job and that there a variety of paths I can take.'

And it appears future opportunities are bright.

'Capricorn Caves are looking to expand their research and science facilities so this is something I definitely want to be a part of'' Miss Georgeson said.

'I would like to look into honours too but at this stage' I am just focused on completing this map' writing an article for publication and finishing my bachelor this year.

'I would like to be involved in some more research opportunities out at the caves - probably looking more into the biology of the cave. It would be interesting to look at wildlife populations' the functioning ecosystem of the cave or study the endangered Ghost Bat. I'm excited to complete this project' see what relationships I form along the way and what opportunities come from it.'