British Ecological Society Annual Meeting

  • E. Penelope Holland (Speaker)
  • Kirman, B. J. (Participant)
  • Knox, K. J. (Participant)
  • Ruta Czaplinska (Participant)
  • Rosie Murton (Participant)
  • Matthew Shepherd (Participant)
  • Matthew Topham (Participant)
  • Katylily Westbury-Hawkins (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventConference participation


CATASTROPHIC: A card game supporting systems thinking in biology

After the discovery of a large underwater sea on a nearby planet, an international team of scientists set out from Earth to begin preparations for colonisation. After the initial terraforming phase, relations broke down irreparably and several sects formed, each laying claim to a region of the planet. In Catastrophic: The Card Game, each player represents one of the rival sects. To win, you must support the development of the most robust community of plants and animals, weaken those of your opponents, and adapt to survive the catastrophes the plant, and your opponents, continually throw at you.

We developed a card game to help players make connections across large spatial and temporal scales. Plant and Animal Trait cards (e.g. thick waxy cuticles and evaporative heat loss) help Species to withstand environmental Conditions that they must face in an onslaught of Events such as global warming, drought and habitat fragmentation. Interaction cards help players to support their community of Species through reproduction (by using the pollination card, or perhaps cross-breeding), protection (e.g. with the Doomsday Vault), collaboration (e.g. reciprocal altruism and obligate mutualism) or stab other players in the back with cheating, brood parasitism, predator ecesis and more.

We describe the story of the game’s development through collaboration with undergraduate students and academics. We outline the rules of the game, highlighting how the learning is reinforced through the game mechanics, rather than just information on the cards, and give preliminary results on our evaluation of uptake, engagement and learning gains for bioscience undergraduates. Finally, we ask you to play Catastrophic, to see for yourself how much fun it is, and to vote on what should be in the next expansion pack.
Period16 Dec 201819 Dec 2018
Event typeConference
LocationUnited KingdomShow on map