Pokemon + Biodiversity = the Phylo Card Game

25 Jul

For someone whose blog name was inspired by a Pokemon catchphrase, I am attracted to all things science & Pokemon. It therefore feels like my duty to talk about the Phylo card game. Even more importantly, there is a little back story here.

When I was still a graduate student, I spent a lot of time doing science outreach. One time, I attended an outreach workshop organized by the UBC Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program. This particularly workshop was led by David Ng, Director and Senior Instructor of the UBC  Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much from that workshop (sorry Dave!). But, one thing he talked about did stick with me. He mentioned a letter by Andrew Balmford and colleagues (you can read the excerpt here), who found that kids in UK could identify Pokemons (which are really just artificial “species”) better than identifying common wild life organisms. So – can we learn from this and come up with something that would help them discover real species and learn their names?

Little did I know back then, that this would soon be a new initiative led by David, and became a real game: Phylo, the trading card game. The game is much like the typical Pokemon trading card game you see kids play. The main difference? All the organisms on the cards are real. This is also an interesting artistic collaboration – there are some amazing art works done for the cards by many artists. Each card comes with the organism’s common name and Latin name, evolutionary tree info, key words, and more. If you browse the cards online, you can also read a bit more about each species.


What a Phylo card looks like. For more info visit: http://phylogame.org/game-play/

The Phylo game is an open access project – you can download the card deck online for free (!!) and print the cards on card stock. There are also special decks put together by the London’s Natural History Museum and the 2012 World Science Festival. If you are in Vancouver, the UBC Beaty Biodiversity Museum now produces  professionally printed starter deck with organisms featured at the museum, for sale at the Museum Gift Shop for $12.99. Proceeds from the sale will go to outreach and education activities at the museum. Online sale is currently not available, but you can sign up online to receive an email when online sale begins. Or, you can just download this starter deck here.

This touches on something else about science communication – how many other mainstream, unconventional ideas haven’t we tapped into for science communication and education? Something to think about…


Sockeye Salmon


8 Responses to “Pokemon + Biodiversity = the Phylo Card Game”

  1. runragged July 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    I LOVE this idea! May have to download myself a set…

    • Terrific T July 25, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

      Awesome! I work at UBC myself, am planning to walk over to grab a deck from the museum myself 😀

      • runragged July 25, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

        My sister is an artist, I have forwarded her the link about submitting art for them 🙂 Unfortunately I have no such skills to offer, just the power of the share button!

        • Terrific T July 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

          Getting people to know about this game is the goal! I have not much artistic skills myself – the best I have done was stick figures 😛

  2. Andrew at The Weekly Show July 30, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    As I’m sure you can tell from The Weekly Show, mention anything Pokemon and I’m in!

    • Terrific T July 30, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      Haha, I see Pokemon as one of the tags. Nice 😀 Glad that you are interested!

  3. sciencethriller August 23, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Wow, such a great idea. I have a strong interest in using the arts/fiction/etc. to encourage science literacy and the Phylomon game concept is wonderful. I’m going to blog about it at ScienceThrillers.com

    • Terrific T August 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      Glad that you like the idea too. Thanks for spreading the words 😀 If you are good with art work, you should consider submitting some to the project!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: