The GCOOS Eco Hero game is an example of what can happen when multiple institutions share expertise to develop a product for the common good. Eco Hero is an interactive, conservation game to understand the environmental value of the Gulf of Mexico and to “bridge the gap” between research conducted within the Gulf and the relevance of scientists’ findings to our everyday lives.┬áThe game was funded by a NOAA grant to the GCOOS-RA, which was subcontracted to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies-Center for Marine Education and Research (IMMS-CMER), MS.

Students playing Eco Hero at the GCOOS Eco Hero dedication ceremony at IMMS

Students playing Eco Hero at the GCOOS Eco Hero dedication ceremony at IMMS

Game exhibits were developed for five informal learning centers throughout the Gulf of Mexico, including four Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers (the Florida Aquarium, Dauphin Island Estuarium, AL, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, LA, and Texas State Aquarium), and the IMMS-CMER. Additional exhibits were subsequently leveraged for other facilities, and a portable version of the game was created for public outreach events. The intellectual content of the Eco Hero game reflects the collective expertise of the 23-member GCOOS Education and Outreach Council, representatives from each of the informal learning centers, and several subject matter experts. The company MindClay Creative, Inc., partnered with IMMS-CMER and the GCOOS-RA to render the game characters and help translate the science in a fun, engaging way.

The importance of the sharing of expertise that went into the creation of the Eco Hero game was recognized through award to the GCOOS-RA and IMMS-CMER of the prestigious U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gulf of Mexico Program’s Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic/Nonprofit category that recognizes “the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful, and productive.” The success of the Eco Hero game exemplifies innovative solutions that develop when we pool resources and look for creative ways to positively impact our quality of life and economic well-being. The award reinforces the value of having a stakeholder-driven GCOOS-RA to leverage multi-institutional, interdisciplinary experts to address shared challenges facing the communities and ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico.

Students playing Eco Hero in their classroom

Students playing Eco Hero in their classroom