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Play this NASA game that helps scientists with coral conservation

Video game called NeMO-NET helps scientists map the world's coral

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

This Earth Day is quite different than we’ve ever experienced. Not only because of social distancing, but also because we are celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. Perhaps you could spend it by literally lending a hand with helping NASA to save the world’s coral by playing a video game. All in the name of conservation, naturally.

A screenshot of NeMO-Net, a NASA game that helps scientists map the world's coral
Photo: Screenshot of NeMO-Net game from the website.

Gizmodo reports that in NeMO-NET, "players use their iPhone, iPad, or computer to virtually travel into the ocean’s depths, identifying and classifying all the corals they encounter. The images are taken from real-life ocean expeditions and playing the game will help scientists create a better map of the world’s coral that can help with conservation efforts before reefs get wiped out.”

"By mounting the new instruments on drones and aircrafts, the scientists have obtained 3D images of corals, algae, and seagrass on the ocean floor over the course of expeditions to Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa" the article continues. "But now, the scientists have to sort through all that data, which is where the game comes in.”

The game gives anyone — and they mean anyone — a chance to help map out the world's oceans.

“NeMO-Net leverages the most powerful force on this planet: not a fancy camera or a supercomputer, but people,” said NASA principal investigator Ved Chirayath, who developed the neural network behind the game, in a statement. “Anyone, even a first-grader, can play this game and sort through these data to help us map one of the most beautiful forms of life we know of.”

Teachers and parents, this is a great opportunity to make learning fun and celebrate Earth Day at the same time. The NASA NeMO-Net app is free on Apple devices.

The game comes at an important time. Oceans are home to as many species as tropical rainforests. They’re also crucial to the health of people and the planet because they’re an important source of food and they help regulate carbon in the atmosphere, among other important functions.

Coral reefs are some of the most threatened ecosystems. Just this month, researchers found that the entire Great Barrier Reef is in the midst of an unprecedented bleaching event that’s wiping out coral in all corners of the ecosystem.

Find out more about Earth Day 2020 here.

Related: NASA needs your help creating a mini Moon Rover

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