Octonauts inspire Scottish sea life project
A children's television series has inspired a project aimed at encouraging more people to explore Scotland's marine life.
Cbeebies' series Octonauts follows a team of animated characters who go to the aid of troubled sea life.
Staff at Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) noted how much children were learning from the programme about real-life fauna and flora.
SNH then set about using animation to show Scottish wildlife and habitats.
By early 2011, agency staff had completed a pilot project to produce an interactive virtual dive using computer animation, real survey data, photographs and video footage.
The pilot showcased the Loch Sunart Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which is now also a Marine Protected Area (MPA).
Using the latest technology, SNH has now gone on to produce a virtual experience for an MPA covering the Small Isles - Eigg, Rum, Canna and Muck - and also the Sound of Barra.
The agency has sought feedback from the public on the new project.
In a blog, SNH said: "We are pretty pleased with the results, which we think give a realistic impression of the world beneath the sea at these sites and some of the wonderful plants and animals that live there."
On the Octonauts' influence, it said: "We discovered Octonauts in 2010.
"Parents were marvelling at the amount their young children were learning about the world's seas and oceans from watching this animated TV programme.
"Having watched a few episodes, we started thinking about the potential for computer animation to help us in our quest to show Scotland the wonderful life and landscapes out of sight in our own seas."
Octo what?: Eight things on Captain Barnacles and co.
1. Octonauts is an animated adventure for young children.
2. The show has been a regular feature of Cbeebies' schedules.
3. In a fleet of aquatic vehicles, the Octonauts explore underwater worlds.
4. The team of characters is led by Captain Barnacles Bear.
5. Kwazii, a cat with an eye patch, is Barnacles' trusty lieutenant.
6. A penguin called Peso is the team's medic.
7. The TV series is based on books by award-winning design team Meomi.
8. The sea creatures featured in the show can be found in real-life the world's seas and oceans.
Last summer, the Scottish government announced that the Sound of Barra in the Western Isles is to be designated a site of Special Area of Conservation.
The government said the move would protect a pristine marine environment and give its wildlife and habitats international recognition.
Local fishermen and Rory MacNeil, chief of Clan MacNeil of Barra, opposed plans for SAC status fearing it would restrict fishing.
People from Barra protested outside the Scottish Parliament in February 2012.
The government's decision followed an independent review examining the scientific case for the designation.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust backed the SAC plans, describing the Sound of Barra as one of "Scotland's wildlife jewels".
It said the area's sandbanks, reefs and harbour seal habitats needed greater protection.
SWT also said the area contained possibly the largest beds in the UK of the coral-like seaweed, maerl.