Rachel Larson, a 2019 NCSE Graduate Student Outreach Fellow, has been awarded a Conservation Education Program grant through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This $3,500 grant will allow her to realize plans to develop a strategy board game where participants help various animals safely navigate an urban environment. “It's like Frogger, but with science.” says Larson.
Larson is a doctoral student in geography at the University of Iowa studying human-wildlife interactions. She drew inspiration for the game from her own research, data from which will be used in human-wildlife-conflict education in Southern California. She's looking forward to making her dissertation research accessible and useful to the broader public.
Larson hopes that game players, by taking on the perspective of various urban wildlife, will ultimately be encouraged to consider the impact of land management strategies on urban wildlife-human interactions. She also hopes the game will alert players to the impact of climate change on wildlife. “Cities are where we feel the effects of climate change the most — they’re warmer than the surrounding ecosystem. So by understanding wildlife behavior in cities, we can better figure out how wildlife would be affected by climate change in non-urban areas.” Through the grant, she will be able to share this game broadly and hopes to also make it available to Iowan teachers.
Larson was chosen to participate in the Graduate Student Outreach Fellowship, funded by the University of Iowa Graduate Challenge Grant, because of her strong background in informal science. Before starting her dissertation work, Larson collaborated with the National Park Service on a citizen science project. Throughout the Fellowship, she has been able to analyze the impact of place-based learning on climate change engagement and develop several activities around local environmental issues. NCSE congratulates Larson on the award and is excited to help amplify the impact of her urban wildlife board game.