A new computer game created at the University of Virginia could help improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The UVa Bay Game was designed to not only educate students but to be used as a tool for local decision makers.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed is the largest estuary in the United States, covering 6 states, from the Susquehanna River in New York all the way down to the James here in Virginia. That's over 64,000 square miles. Now every part of the watershed, including a population of over 17 million people, can be simulated in a computer game created at UVa. Gerard Learmonth, the UVa Bay Game designer says, " The idea of the game is to raise awareness of issues of sustainability using the Chesapeake Bay watershed, our local national treasure, as the focal point of this."
The game is based on a complex model of the dynamics of the bay including the water, fisheries, agriculture, and land development, but the game also gives live players the opportunity to play roles. Learmonth says, "In playing the game, as we step through time year after year, they make decisions about what they would do as farmers or watermen or land developers." The choices each player makes will not only impact there own crop yield or crab catch but will impact other players and eventually the health of the bay. "We measure the quality of the bay, we use the anoxic region as our measurement of the bay and that is the area of the bay that is increasingly unable to sustain life."
The Bay Game will be used in many classes at UVa across several colleges from engineering to the commerce and law schools, but it could also be used on a much bigger scale. "Environmentalists could meet with agriculture persons, with watermen, with regulators both federal, state, and local, and work through issues to find the best solutions to turning around the condition and health of the bay and improving it for everyone." adds Learmonth.
Arizona State University and Melbourne University in Australia have already voiced there interest in using the Bay Game's technology to help solve problems in other watersheds worldwide.