Advances in computer science are continuing to help expand a new subfield of ecology based on computational analyses of complex ecological networks where the nonlinear dynamics of many interacting species can be more realistically modeled and understood. Research has recently elucidated how the network structure of feeding relationships both generally stabilize complex ecosystems and also specifically predict effects of experimentally removing species. Still, further research is inhibited by the exponential increase of parameter space with the number of nonlinearly interacting species. Such increases prevent more thorough exploration and understanding of complex ecosystems. Here, we describe how intelligent interfaces for multiplayer games help researchers surpass these limitations. Our applications including a multiplayer online game, “World of Balance,” educates players about interdependence and non-linear population dynamics among species within ecosystems while helping to explore critically important parameter space in a scientifically productive manner. Our evaluation tests found that benefits of playing World of Balance on knowledge gain and learning significantly surpassed the benefits of reading scientific articles among undergraduates. Such work efficiently leverages multiple resources to expand education and research potential within critically important areas of ecology and sustainability science.
Keywords— Ecology game, Science Discovery Game, Education game, Food Webs, Ecological Networks
Dr. Ilmi Yoon is a Professor in the Computer Science Department at San Francisco State University. She earned both her MS and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles in 1996 and 2000. Her Ph.D. focus was on "Web-based Remote Rendering using Image-Based Rendering Techniques." Her current research relates to Gamification, Interactive media, Network Information and Visualization. She teaches Computer Graphics, Internet Application, and Multiplayer Game Design and Development. Her team has developed “World of Balance” multiplayer game for ecology research and “DeBugger” MMORPG for educating computer science students.
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