Video transcript: Fraxinus: a Facebook game to crowdsource the fight against ash dieback disease

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August 2013

Video shows Fraxinus Facebook game

Gareth Catchpole, student at Wymondham College
It's challenging cos normally with other games it's just for fun but this is actually like a mind puzzle where you have to try and get your head round it.

Lucy Cann, student at Wymondham College
I think it's really good and fun. It's quite additive.

Video shows students playing the Fraxinus Facebook game

Dr Dan Maclean, The Sainsbury Laboratory
So the children are playing our Facebook game called Fraxinus that allows them to analyse our ash dieback data. The ash dieback data is DNA sequence data from lots of individual samples of ash dieback taken from around Norfolk.

Video shows infected tree samples

One of the problems that we have, particularly with a new problem, a new disease of trees like ash dieback is that it takes a long time to try and pull together all the scientists to do the analysis that we need. We don't have a quick enough response.

Video shows students playing the Fraxinus Facebook game

What people can do for us, the general public, is lots and lots of small analysis. In this case, we are using crowd sourcing with the general public through Facebook games to try and do genetic analysis for us. In playing the game you are doing a small, but very very useful genetic analysis. And they are playing with the same sort of data I would use as a scientist that I would do my analysis with.

Gareth Catchpole
I think it is really kind of changeling because you have to like line up all the patterns and it's just like really hard to try and get your head around it because there are so many different versions you can do. It's just really good.

Lucy Cann
Yeah it is good based on a real problem whereas most games it is sort of pointless and based on nothing. At least doing this it is towards something.

Video shows Dan Maclean talking through how the game works

Dr Dan Maclean
So the game presents to us genomic DNA from different samples. So, ok this section here this is a reference pattern. This represents a little bit of DNA from one of our samples. Each of the little leaf shapes represents a different nucleotide and the objective is to try and find the best match possible between the reeds and the reference. And the game allows us to move the reeds about left and right to try and accomplish the alignment. And we can get the best alignment by introducing gaps by dragging the reeds about or by introducing the legions from the reeds so we can remove individual leaves.

Gareth Catchpole
Yeah cos I mean just like doing the simple thing, just having a bit of enjoyment, can actually like save the entire population of the ash and everything. Yeah I think it is a good idea to do more of these.

Lucy Cann
Yeah, there should definitely be more games like this because there are not really many out there that I can think of. This is the only one I can think of and I think people should take more interest in it.

Dr Dan Maclean
And when we have done this over the whole set of reeds and maximise the score here, it's the positions that differ from the reference pattern that we are interested in. This set of differences represents a possible genetic variation between the sample and the reference organisms.

Lucy Cann
I like the fact that it is quite easy to play. It's quite competitive if you are playing against your friends if you want to get a better score than them and if they beat you, you just want to beat them back.

Gareth Catchpole
Yeah and you can also challenge them, you can steal their different codes and patterns. And it's just like, as Ed beat me at one of the patterns so I am trying to beat him.

Arran Frood, BBSRC
How are you getting on?

Gareth Catchpole


Dr Dan Maclean
The game never gives you an exact answer it instead allows you to try and get your best score. Once you have a best score the other players can see your score and if they believe they can do better then they are able to attempt to steal and it's this element of competition that allows for an improvement and betterment of the alignments and the data in our databases. Once we get it back to our databases it is used by scientists to try and infer such things as genetic distance, or possible variations that it might cause extra lethality of the disease, or extra susceptibility or resistance of a tree.



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All media (c) BBSRC unless stated.

We wish to thank teachers and pupils from Wymondham College.

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