What We’re Reading- Feb 10, 2017

Buzzing Around the Bombus Phylogeny
We previously discussed how phylogenetic trees can be useful tools for making conservation decisions, so this paper applying these ideas to the European bumblebee (Bombus) was right up our alley! In this analysis, 58 of the 68 species of bumblebees were categorized based on their IUCN Red List status, then analyzed to understand how species extinction would affect phylogenetic diversity.  There are 15 bumblebee species (or 26%) threatened with extinction, and they are somewhat overdispersed within the phylogenetic tree.  Thus, if all 15 species went extinct, significant portions of overall bumblebee diversity would be lost (compared to the loss of 15 species randomly throughout the phylogenetic tree).  The author ends with recommendations for how to incorporate species distribution models with phylogenetic diversity information to identify target areas for bee conservation.

Side photo of Bombus vestalis by Robin Williams for ARKive.

Can Pokemon Go Be Good for Conservation? 
Pokemon Go was the biggest craze of summer 2016 and it is still going strong. It wasn’t unusual to see droves of people wandering in parks and other green spaces while staring down at their phone. This app did the seemingly impossible – got gamers, especially kids, to go outside with an indoor activity. While these people were interacting with an augmented reality (AR), they were also stepping into the natural world. Getting people outdoors always seems to be a  good idea, but if people are interacting with Pokemon and not plants and animals, does this translate into good or bad news for conservation? This article (open) showcases the good, the bad, and the potential for Pokemon Go as means to connect people to nature through a video game. In addition to some surprising conservation outcomes, it’s also interesting to read about the intensity and popularity of Pokemon Go users. If we can understand some of the gaming motivations driving users of Pokemon Go, perhaps they can be incorporated into citizen science projects to incentivize data collection and analysis.

Pokemon got people to go outside, but to look at their phones. Is this good for conservation? Photo Credit: The Daily News

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