Trial of “Extinction: The Game of Ecology”

Ecolabbies Jo, Ngan Kee and I finally hunkered down over the board game "Extinction: The Game of Ecology" during lunch time this Tuesday afternoon. This trial was to test the feasibility for its use in one of my modules

Coloured hexagons on the board you see in the photo are habitats, each coloured dice a species—numbers reflect population size, cards are genes, one set of cards bring news of environmental change (sometimes catastrophic) and the spinner dictates species interaction (competition or predation), migration, reproduction and mutation opportunities. Barriers spring up that inhibit migrations and pestilence can strike one or more species…

Extinction is an old game designed by Stephen Hubbell (of "The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography" fame) and marketed by Sinauer Associates  (1972) and a second edition by Carolina Biological Supply (1978). I first played this game in the late 80's (the instruction mannual I was holding in the picture is more than two decades old) and I last played this about a decade ago.

Our trial today overcame some detailed, initial reading, helped by my familiarity from reading the game rules last year when I first thought of bringing this back to the classroom. But also, my labmates could appreciate the need to be patient while we grasped the game's details before rushing ahead.

We unravelled the extent of the rules and got competitive later, hiding more and more of our genotype from each other. NK's species actually got wiped out by a pestilence but we revived the species and she struggled along until TS injected fresh blood and almost ran away with the game. Eventually we called a halt after two hours.

The game allows you to deduce the significance of many issues in ecology and biologists will enjoy the added  ecological and evolutionary significance. I will try it out with the animal behaviour class if I can find enough TAs, since the class would profit from some understanding of ecology. And I can't wait to try it out with the ecology class next semester!

Thanks to ecolabby Paul for the picture!

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