At Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park, hundreds of cliff dwellings provide a glimpse of how the region’s ancestral pueblo people lived a thousand years ago.

Now, using laser scanning and specialized photography, a nonprofit called Cyark has created detailed 3D models of this and other world heritage sites.

Elizabeth Lee is Cyark’s vice president of programs and development.

Lee: “We work on sites that are threatened from a number of factors, but more and more sites are really being impacted by climate change.”

Scientists expect intense wildfires at Mesa Verde to become more common. Fires can damage the site, and increase the risk of flooding and erosion after a blaze.

Cyark’s goal is to create a digital record of the site that can be preserved for generations to come. And that same record can help educate people now.

Lee: “Earlier this year we launched a virtual reality app that allows users to travel to four different locations virtually and tour around them in fully scaled 3D models and also learn about some of the challenges they face, including those from climate change.”

She says it’s a way to help more people experience these historic places – and get inspired to protect them.

Reporting credit: Ariel Hansen/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image credit: Cyark’s Mesa Verde video.