Most Lafayette students remember being asked to kill Spotted Lanterns last fall whenever they passed. While the red dotted pattern on their wings may look pretty, these invasive insects are actually ruining agriculture and biodiversity in the United States – and they’re multiplying fast. Biology student Cameron Cloud ’23 has developed a video game called “Lanternfly Game” to raise awareness of invasive species.
The game was inspired by an article published by biology professor Daniel Strömbom with the help of student researchers who mathematically models the spread and growth rate of the spotted lantern fly to study the effectiveness of mitigation strategies.
Cloud, who joined the Strömbom team in second year, created the “Lanternfly Game” to communicate the results of the study and raise awareness of the presence of the spotted lantern in and around the Lafayette campus. She said the importance of the game is “to convey the idea that it is difficult to bring down the population and that the controls we have now are probably not enough”.
The game begins with images of five spotted lanterns on the screen. The player must then try to kill all the spotted lanterns by clicking on them. However, as the remaining Lanterns replicate quickly, it becomes increasingly difficult to eradicate them all. This represents the results of Strömbom’s article, which found that each spotted lantern fly will spawn five to six new adults in the next generation.
“The game itself is really tough to win,” Cloud said. “It’s important for people to keep in mind: when they see them, kill them. They really harm the environment.
“I knew I didn’t want to do things in a lab, but I wanted to make an impact in some way. And I think being able to do this game emphasizes that you don’t have to do things specifically in a lab to show important concepts about biology, ”Cloud said.
At this time, Cloud will not be pursuing any further development of the game. Next semester, she will be working with a math teacher to add a new variable to the model that will provide more information about the growth rate of the spotted lanterns. Strömbom and his team will continue their investigations to explore the effectiveness of biological controls on the management of the spotted lantern population.
“I didn’t really have a clue what the search was all about and I felt this experience was not representative of a traditional search experience,” Cloud said. “I felt lucky that I was able to do something impactful, like research, but in a unique way. “