Fraxinus Fever

Fraxinus Fever

After just two days’ play, every one of more than 10,000 puzzles in the ash dieback game Fraxinus had been looked at.

“This is when it gets really interesting for us, as players have to start stealing from each other to get a better score,” said Dr Dan MacLean, the scientist at The Sainsbury Laboratory behind the idea.

“The puzzles will be fine-tuned and this in turn helps improve the quality of results for us.”

Screen from the Fraxinus game, in which players are invited to match genome sequences as a puzzle

Screen from the Fraxinus game, in which players are invited to match genome sequences as a puzzle

There are already clear leaders among the thousands of people from 80 countries who have played, topped by Thor Nogson with a player called “AshGood GameDieback” coming in second. All players will have their contributions recognised.

The scientists are also lining up fresh data from samples of the ash dieback fungus. The current samples are from three infected woods in Norfolk. Samples from France and Japan collected by Genepool and The Sainsbury Laboratory scientists will help reveal where the British infection originated.

The game involves matching data from different samples represented by coloured leaf shapes. They have to be matched to a reference pattern at the top of the screen, which represents genetic data from the fungus taken from Kenninghall Wood in Norfolk. Players get more points for beating someone else’s score on a pattern.

“The response has been overwhelming and will help with real analysis for our research,” said Dr MacLean.

The Chalara fraxinus fungus can be seen growing into a carpet on the forest floor - picture taken 11 August 2013

The Chalara fraxinus fungus can be seen growing into a carpet on the forest floor – picture taken 11 August 2013

Some puzzles that cannot be improved on have already been removed from the game and the data returned to the research database ready for further analysis by the scientists.

Each tiny white mushroom of the ash dieback fungus can produce 1500 spores an hour during the morning to spread to new trees and new areas. Scientists were devastated to find the woodland floor at Ashwellthorpe carpeted with these mushrooms the day before the launch of the game, making Norfolk an epicentre for the onward spread of ash dieback.

 

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Dr Dan MacLean explains more about Fraxinus (via YouTube)

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  1. Facebook game Fraxinus targeted at beating ash dieback | Science on the Land - August 31, 2013

    [...] Fiona Harvey at the Guardian told us two weeks ago how we could join this useful game. Now Dan MacLean, the scientist leading this, tells us that Fraxinus fever is hotting up. [...]

  2. Fraxinus to Fight Fungus - SciStarter Blog at SciStarter Blog - September 21, 2013

    [...] of work for citizen scientists, but already each of these puzzles has been examined, according to a recent report on the game. Now that each puzzle has been looked at, players will begin to “steal” patterns from one [...]