By moving and matching differently colored leaves as part of a Facebook game, users are actually helping researchers analyze the genomes of the ash tree and the fungus Chalara fraxinea that infects and kills the tree, reports CNET Australia's Crave blog.
The game, called Fraxinus, was developed by researchers at the Sainsbury Laboratory, and is relying on crowd-sourced analysis to get to the root of the tree's susceptibility to the disease. The researchers suspect that some trees may have a genetic immunity to the fungus that they may be able to exploit to breed a resistant tree.
"Each play of the game will contribute a small but useful analysis," Sainsbury's Dan MacLean tells the Crave blog. "The more people who play it, the more accurate the results will be for us, and the quicker we can generate the information needed to help our woodlands recover from the current epidemic."
According to the game's Facebook app page, it has 10,000 players.