13 January 2010

Phylomon: Pokemon meets Real Wildlife

8-year old children can identify 120 Pokemon characters. However, they fail horrendously at identifying photos of “real” wildlife from their own backyard.

Thus was the Phylomon Project born.

Here's what the website says:
“What is this?” you ask? Well, it's an online initiative aimed at creating a Pokemon card type resource but with real creatures on display in full “character design” wonder.

Not only that - but we plan to have the scientific community weigh in to determine the content on such cards, as well as folks who love gaming to try and design interesting ways to use the cards.

Then to top it all off, members of the teacher community will participate to see whether these cards have educational merit.

Best of all, the hope is that this will all occur in a non-commercial-open-access-open-source-because-basically-this-is-good-for-you-your-children-and-your-planet sort of way.

The author of the Pokemon study added:

Our findings carry two messages for conservationists.

First, young children clearly have tremendous capacity for learning about creatures (whether natural or man-made), being able to at age 8 to identify nearly 80% of a sample drawn from 150 synthetic “species.”

Second, it appears that conservationists are doing less well than the creators of Pokemon at inspiring interest in their subjects.

During their primary school years, children apparently learn far more about Pokemon than about their native wildlife and enter secondary school being able to name less than 50% of common wildlife types.

Evidence from elsewhere links loss of knowledge about the natural world to growing isolation from it. People care about what they know.

With the world's urban population rising by 160,000 people daily, conservationists need to reestablish children's links with nature if they are to win over the hearts and minds of the next generation.

How ordinary people can contribute to the Project

Wouldn't it be great to have something like this too for Singapore's wildlife!

In fact, Shawn Lum, President of the Nature Society (Singapore) mentioned exactly this study and the need for something like Phylomon during the launch of the Singapore Red Data Book.

More links
The Pokemon Study is from Andrew Balmford's letter (Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokemon, Science. 2002 Mar 29;295(5564):2367.).


David Ng said...

By all means, do contribute! The idea is that because you can leave tags at the Flickr, in principle, the ability to create a "Singapore" specific set is possible.

dave ng
University of British Columbia

ria said...

Thanks David for this information! That's wonderful to know!

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