App aims to educate about predators

PEST CONTROL: The new Possum Stomp smartphone game puts the spotlight on predators of native birds.
PEST CONTROL: The new Possum Stomp smartphone game puts the spotlight on predators of native birds.

A new smartphone app is offering players the chance to control a kiwi that battles zombie possums.

Possum Stomp features a character called Stompy the Kiwi, whose mission is to protect its nest from the zombie possums before they steal his eggs.

Landcare Research scientist Pen Holland, who developed the mathematical models used to run the game, says the zombie possums represent all invasive pests.

The app costs $1.29 and has been downloaded by players in Ireland, Britain, Australia, the United States and France, as well as New Zealand. All revenue will go towards the development and running of the project.

Holland's models showed players what would happen to the forest canopy as a result of the pest strategies they choose, Landcare colleague Bruce Warburton said.

"Some people may choose to kill nothing, and Pen's model will show how the canopy of the forest will decline from possums eating it."

The gaming environment marked a significant change in how science could be translated from research to the public, and both researchers were hoping it proved to be effective.

"It's educational, but we're also going to observe people's strategies for pest management and use that to understand public perceptions, as well as crowd-source some specific management solutions," Ms Holland said.

Possum Stomp is a teaser for a wider educational online pest control game called Ora, which will be introduced this year.

Ora aims to teach people about the complexities of pest management - people can choose not to use a particular tool, such as 1080, but if they don't there could be consequences related to budget, biological or regulatory constraints.

The games' development is part of a wider research programme led by Mr Warburton aimed at developing new technologies for pest control.

It is available on both Apple and Android operating systems.

Fairfax Media