NOVA's Evolution Lab is a free online game that helps players explore the history of life on Earth and understand the process behind it: evolution. Phylogenetics—the study of the evolutionary relationships between species—is explored in depth as players evaluate similarities in the traits and DNA of species and conduct their own investigations in a virtual tree of life with over 70,000 species. Along the way, players can watch short animated videos that explain the evidence of evolution and illustrate it with specific examples.
The two major components of the Evolution Lab, Build A Tree and Deep Tree, were developed by the Life on Earth project based at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Life on Earth is a NSF-funded project led by principal investigator Chia Shen, director of the Scientists’ Discovery Room (SDR) Lab. Shen’s team, including lead developer Florian Block and collaborators around the country, worked for several years to find the most effective ways to make the tree an open-ended space to explore how life formed and continues to evolve.