Conservation games: Wildlife Tracker

It seems that one effective way to get kids (and adults!) interested or involved in a subject is to put it in a video game. It can be difficult to put conservation research into game form in a way that is exciting, fun, and educational, but it is easier in this age of apps, iphones, ipads, and facebook- and scientists are taking advantage. In my case, I was lucky enough to be contacted by an environmentally conscientious game creator in love with bugs! I’ve written about his creation and my (and Ohlone tiger beetle’s) part in his game, Isopod, in a past blog post here. ‘Isopod’ is an educational game because of its many fact sheets and use of real species, but its main purpose is for entertainment, especially of young kids…and we just hope the kids will strike up an interest in insects and nature while playing the game.

Another way to create a conservation game is to actually use a part of your research as the basis for a game. My friend Yiwei Wang did just that. She works with Santa Cruz Pumas under Chris Wilmers and for her dissertation is working on tracking pumas in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She is looking at how housing density affects mountain lion movement and behavior (and I still have yet to see a puma with her! but she always reminds me that she hasn’t seen an Ohlone tiger beetle either, soon to change!…). Her research requires her to set up camera traps around the Santa Cruz Mountains and results in her obtaining thousands of photos- not just of pumas…

She is using her photos for more than her personal puma research and has teamed up with other UCSC students to create a Facebook game called “Wildlife Tracker” where you can race your friends to identify the critters she has captured on camera! The game is complete with real photos of adorable critters and a field guide to help you learn how to recognize them in the photos. For more information- check out this introductory video and then try it out for yourself: Wildlife Tracker


About tcornelisse
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