Project Description

The North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is an endangered species whose population is currently estimated to be just over 500 individuals. Fisheries bycatch is the accidental entanglement, hooking, or entrapment of non-target aquatic animals, and is a significant threat to the right whale as well as other species. The NEAq, in collaboration with other scientists, has developed a virtual whale entanglement simulator (VWES) that can show researchers how whales get entangled in fishing lines. WPI and NEAq are collaborating to design a video game based on the VWES that will educate the public about endangered species and the complexity of human-nonhuman interactions in our oceans. This video game may be used as an interactive museum exhibit at institutions such as the New England Aquarium and Mystic Seaport, as part of whale watching excursions, as a classroom or online education tool.  In this project students will help develop the story line of the game by drawing on the histories of actual whales and cutting-edge research on the species, relying on literature in environmental ethics and environmental education to determine how best to provide visitors with an engaging opportunity for empathetic connection with animals, and assessing what methods would have the greatest impact on the public. A central focus of the interactive experience will be an appreciation and understanding for the threat to large whales and other endangered species from fisheries bycatch. Additional aspects such as safety parameters, exhibit placement, and outreach beyond the game will also be considered. Students will then deliver a report to the NEAq and an IMGD MQP Team that will then design the video game for their Major Qualifying Project (MQP).