Biodiversity Mapping: A Technological Breakthrough for the QuestaGame Community

The world map according to Ptolemy’s 1st projection: Ptolemy knew more about the map of the world than we know about life on earth today..

Yesterday the QuestaGame community took the first steps in what could be a major breakthrough in the field of biodiversity mapping. We released a new, seemingly insignificant feature on the iOS version of the game that helps make the verification system more scalable.

In 12 hours, we received about 1000 entries, which isn’t much when it comes to writing complex social algorithms, but it’s enough to validate what we’ve always believed was possible; and for Questa-nerds like us, it was immensely satisfying.

It’s not perfect, not even close (some bug fixes and lots of upgrades coming). But it opens a window, gives us a sunnier view of all the places we can travel.

What do we see?

At the moment, humans are familiar with about 20% of all life on the planet. If we correlate our knowledge of biodiversity to, say, the cartographic history of the earth, we know about as much about life on Earth as the ancient Romans knew about the shape of the Earth’s continents. Probably less. Our knowledge is about the size of Europe.

Having opened this new window and gazed across the landscape of possibility, we don’t see why we couldn’t map 80% of life, or roughly 7 million species, in a couple years. In other words, if we continue to develop the technology at this pace, and people continue to support the vision, we now have the ability to catalogue most the earth’s species very soon — while awakening a new generation to the magic of the natural world.

And what would we do with this knowledge? This awareness? It’s estimated — very roughly estimated — that in the time I’ve taken to write the above words, two species have gone extinct on this planet. Extinction will always be a part of nature, but is the rate of extinction increasing? Decreasing? Have other species come into existence? How can we know? Are we losing species that are critical to biodiversity and sustainability? Are we missing out on medical breakthroughs because plant species are dying? Is an invasive species a threat to our food supply? Should we really be destroying forests in certain parts of the world and planting trees in another? Why and where? How will this affect biodiversity? Should we be trying to save one species, while letting others die? How can we know?

If we don’t know what’s there, how can we make intelligent decisions about what needs protecting, how to achieve environmental sustainability, and ultimately, how best to live amongst all the life around us?

Hence, our excitement over yesterday’s developments. The possibility to leap from a map that covers 20% of life to one that covers 80% of life — in such a short time — is cause for celebration.

The entire QuestaGame community deserves credit for this development. All the users, experts, all the feedback, sightings, bug reports, suggestions for improvement. We’d like to commend the development team, particularly Priyank Tiwari and his team, as well as Elliot Osborne. They’ve done amazing work. We should also thank the Sidney Myer Fund & The Myer Foundation, which leapt into the cause and, in doing so, has supported QGame’s leap into the future. Thanks, too, to ACT Innovation, Trade Connect, the Purves Environmental Fund, the Norman Wettenhall Foundation, the Office of Environment and Heritage NSW, and all of QuestaGame’s partners, supporters and friends.