You probably thought that you would never be interested in playing a computer game about ash dieback. You were wrong.
As you may already be aware, a large percentage of the ash trees in the UK are under serious threat because of the condition, which is caused by a fungus known as chalara fraxinea. Now, scientists believe that one of the best chances of beating it is to get lots of people sitting in front of their computers and playing away.
The Fraxinea game is designed to help analyse the genetic data relevant to the disease. It is now released on Facebook and gives each of us the chance to try and protect the 80 million ash trees in the UK.
Finding Out More about the Genetics
The idea behind the game is that some trees appear to be naturally immune to the fungus. They could be used to grow forests of ash trees which are resistant to the disease. However, first of all the scientists need to find out more about the genetics of the trees as well as of the fungus.
To do this, players will be given leaves which represent parts of the genetic sequence and need to match them with other. Dr Joan Webber from the Forest Research agency is one of the people hoping to get information from the game and she said that is all about “helping with building” their picture of the ash tree genome.
Dr Dan MacLean of the John Innes Centre in Norwich came up with the idea for the game and he said that it is designed to be “fun and engrossing”.