Thesis subject

MSc thesis topic: Wolf Simulator - An immersive experience and serious game

Wolves are an integral part of the ecosystem. However, after being absent for 150 years in the Netherlands, their recolonization of The Netherlands is not without controversy. Wolves have never lived alongside humans and livestock in such a densely populated area. Nonetheless, researchers from Wageningen argue that wolves belong here and that coexistence with humans and farm animals is possible and desirable. It requires, however, to give nature the space it needs, protective and sensible policies, and an acceptance by the general public.

In this project we are planning to design, create, and evaluate a wolf simulator. Using environmental (GIS) data from the Veluwe we will be building an iconic Dutch environment, populate it with currently existing plants and animals, and simulate the effects of integrating wolves into this environment. Experiencing such an environment through the use of virtual reality (VR) allows for the exploration of what-if scenarios and a visceral access to the consequences of the recolonization of the Veluwe by wolves.

Immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, are entering a new era. Thanks to substantial investments by leading companies (e.g., FaceBook(™), Microsoft(™), Google(™)) immersive media are becoming mainstream, that is, they are affordable and rarely cause cybersickness anymore. At the same time, the creation and the design of immersive experiences is getting easier and easier and accessible to many more people. Tools such as Unity(™) or Unreal(™), that is, game-engines, are sophisticated and well supported development environments.

There is mounting evidence that the use of immersive technologies in combination with simulations can have positive effects on how people think. Positive in the sense that these experiences enable people to develop higher order thinking skills preparing them to analyze facts in the context of complex systems.

Relevance to research/projects

This project is part of a OneWageningen initiative as a collaboration between GRS and Animal Ecology. The project is additionally supported by a university-wide research effort (WANDER) seeking to establish immersive technologies firmly in the portfolio of research and education tools for environmental and societal challenges.


  • Understand the implications of the recolonization of wolves into the Dutch landscape (e.g., the Veluwe).
  • Identify main drivers and factors of wolf ecology
  • Translate a subset of these drivers into game mechanics that will allow a player to evaluate and experience what-if scenarios
  • Evaluate the wolf simulator (serious game) with players on effects such as environmental policy support


  • Jansman, H. A. H.; Mergeay, E. A.; van der Grift, E. A.; Groot, G. A. de; Lammertsma, D. R.; van den Berge, K. et al. (2021): De wolf terug in Nederland. Een factfinding study. Wageningen Environmental Research. Wageningen (Rapport 3107).
  • Sajjadi, Pejman; Swim, Janet K.; Bagher, M.; Myrick, Jessica G.; Guerriero, Joseph G.; White, Timothy; Klippel, Alexander (submitted): Promoting Systems Thinking and Policy Support Through Serious Games for Environmental Education. In Journal of Enviornmental Psychology.


  • An interest in animal ecologyy
  • An interest in technologies and gaming
  • Interest in working with immersive technologies
  • Interest in empirical studies and evaluations

Theme(s): Modelling & visualisation; Empowering & engaging communities