Since its launch in 2014, QuestaGame has generated over 2.5 million observation records and verified identifications of plants, animals and fungi.
It is the largest daily provider of expert-verified species data in Australia. The data is shared with national and global biodiversity data repositories for scientific research, monitoring and conservation.
"QuestaGame data has been cited in over 600 scientific papers. It has given us a lot of information about invasive species, and a species that is undescribed by science is discovered every few days through the app,” Andrew says.
QuestaGame uses the BioExpertise Engine (BEE), another of its proprietary technologies, to accurately verify sightings submitted by players. Anyone with an account in the app can identify a sighting, but identifications are weighted according to player expertise levels. New species sightings are sent to experts — highly ranked players — to ensure accuracy and efficiency.
“Players have an expertise level ranking in each category of life. So, they might be really highly ranked in butterflies or spiders, but low ranked in birds. This means that as they give their feedback on sightings, the system looks at their ranking and determines how much weight to give their expertise in the peer review process,” Andrew says.
The more sightings players identify correctly, the higher their ranking becomes and the more interesting or challenging sightings the BEE system will send them. Andrew highlights that the game is an educational tool with a wide variety of players; some began playing with very little biodiversity knowledge and have grown into experts who can now reliably identify many different species.
“QuestaGame has a lot of level 10 experts who work in museums and universities, but also amateurs who don’t have a profession in this field but really know their biodiversity,” he says.
Players are rewarded for their knowledge; while most play for the fun of the game and the helper’s high of contributing to biodiversity preservation, players also earn money for their identifications — currently averaging about $0.05 per correct ID, but the amount depends on market demand.
Until recently, this revenue was distributed to non-profit conservation organisations selected by the community. But Andrew is practical about raising the value of nature, so to enable individual players to earn money, EarthGuardians.LIFE is developing a new extended reality Play-Earn-Protect (PEP) game called Guardians of Earth, along with a new cryptocurrency called BioToken.
BioToken is a blockchain-based currency which people earn for their ecological expertise. These tokens can be exchanged for other cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ether, as more trading pairs become available.
“BioToken is the world’s first fully measurable and verifiable biodiversity tokenisation. It’s designed to raise the economic value of the environment and it’s all about investing in biodiversity and treating it like the valuable asset that it really is,” Andrew says.