Ash trees in the UK are in big troubles. They estimated 80 million ash trees are under threat. The ash die back disease (i.e. the Chalara fungus) could kill millions of trees as scientists think trees are genetically susceptible to this type of disease. However, some trees end up being immune, and the why and how of this happening is what the scientists want to discover. Hope comes from an unexpected form: a Facebook game.
Scientists need to analyse the genetic code of both the trees and the fungus. This is a huge task, as it ivolves 60 million nucleotides for the fungus and around 1 billion for the trees. Researches sequenced the DNA from infected trees and, via the Facebook Game, called Fraxinus, they let the human brain recognize patterns. The hope is that by sorting this information into genetic sequences through gameplay, players will help scientists find genetic variations to better understand how the disease works on a genetic level.
Competition is also part of the game. It is actually what keeps players engaged, together with the addictiveness of the game. The player who has the hishest score on any given pattern can claim that pattern and hold it until his score is still the highest. The advantage is that each pattern theft also serves to make the data more accurate.
Top players will actually see their names in public databases and publications in recognition for their help.
That is another beautiful example of crowdsourcing, hope you guys liked the idea and go ahead and play the game, it’s free and anyone with a Facebook account can join in: https://apps.facebook.com/fraxinusgame/