How can computer games help conservation?

Recap of the lecture ‘How can Computer Games Help Conservation’ by Richard Stillman, Professor at Bournemouth University.

In this lecture we were presented with the idea of how games can be scientifically used to predict behaviour in animals. This was considered as ‘game theory’, examples of this included how animals avoid predation and breed more than competitors. I found this very fascinating and I was very intrigued when I read the lecture’s title. Richard Stillman described how this game theory might be applied and its uses, he explained how this allows us to understand how animals make their decisions and predict how animals may behave in future climates and other environmental factors.

To apply game theory, models on the principle are produced such as the Individual-based Model which assumes individuals vary in certain aspects such as competitive ability, and then predicts the survival rates. The model works on certain parameters such as the food supply, tidal exposure, daily food requirements and feeding rates. There are many places that have developed these models for ecology such as Cardiff Bay, Poole Harbour and even as far as Denmark.

These models have helped many species of animals survive by predicting their behaviours and the effect certain environmental factors will have on them including the proposal of building new barges in Severn River. The model constructed for this situation was able to highlight any problems the biodiversity might have with the construction and weigh the costs against the benefits. They found out that creating the Cardiff-Western barrage it will dramatically reduce the population of animals in that area whereas creating the Welsh Ground Lagoon will increase the biodiversity populations.

This shows that applying the game theory can help improve our understanding of animals’ habitual behaviours and our own impact on their habitats.

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